2023 Travelers Championship leaderboard, scores: Denny McCarthy nearly holes out for 59 in Round 1

The last elevated event of the PGA Tour’s regular season is off to a smoking start with a 60 from Denny McCarthy. While 62 was good enough for a co-lead last week after the first round of the U.S. Open, it wouldn’t even get you within one this week at the Travelers Championship.

McCarthy. who has been playing terrific golf, has some company near the top of the board, including several other stars. Still, he is now in a great position to grab the win that eluded him at the Memorial a few weeks ago and snag a hefty $3.6 million first prize at TPC River Highlands. 

The leaderboard behind him remains packed, though. Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott are just two strokes off the pace, and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler is one further back. With eight of the top 10 players in the world having made the cross-country journey from Los Angeles Country Club a week ago, the competition will be stiff over the next 54 holes. 

Let’s take a look at McCarthy’s round, as well as what to expect over the course of the next three days at this tournament.

The leader

1. Denny McCarthy (-10)

McCarthy actually played his first 12 in 8 under and looked for a bit like he might take a rip at Jim Furyk’s course (and PGA Tour) record of 58. He cooled off late — if you can call it that — and made just one birdie from holes 13-17. 

Then, standing in the 9th fairway (his 18th hole of the day), he hit his 59th shot of the round, and it nearly fell. Watch this, and tell me it wouldn’t have been the shot of the year for golf’s magic number.

“I had been hitting a nice little cutty shot all day with mid-irons, so I just gripped down on a 7-iron and I was trying to cut in there, and just leaked it a little, saw it kick, and couldn’t see the rest,” explained McCarthy. “We were just going off the crowd’s reaction at that point. Obviously it came pretty close to going in. In the air I wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere close to going in, but obviously it was exciting that it had a chance.”

So was everyone else.

McCarthy has had a great month. He lost Memorial in a playoff and finished T20 last week at LACC. A win here would be a perfect capper, and now he’s in the best position of anyone with 54 holes left to go get it.

Other contenders

T2. Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott (-8)

4. Scottie Scheffler (-7)

T5. Shane Lowry, Chez Revie, Eric Cole (-6)

Scheffler cleaned up in the afternoon and is third in the field from tee to green. Humorously, the first thing he said in his post-round interview on Golf Channel was, “I didn’t drive it as well as I would have liked to.” He added later that he did everything else well, which is true considering he shot 63.

Just to put in perspective what’s been going on with him this season, he now has 12 rounds of 65 or better in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season and just six of 73 or worse. He’s the new favorite to win this tournament, and given that he seemingly falls out of bed to shoot 67 right now, he should be.

It looked for a bit like Bradley was going to be your leader. He rocked the morning wave and led before Scott and McCarthy ran him down. He started on the back and ripped off five birdies in a row before “settling” for a 6-under 29 on that side of the course. 

How thin are the margins, though? Bradley said he started thinking about 58 after making a long putt on his 8th hole of the day (the 17th on the course). However, he could have been thinking about 68 had it not fallen given how fast it was rolling.

“When I made that really long putt on 17 … could have gone in the water,” he said. “I don’t know, crossed my mind. I wasn’t thinking about it a lot, but I certainly was going to try to do it.

“I can’t believe how hard I hit that putt. As soon as I hit it I couldn’t believe it. A lot of times on those putts you’re begging for it to hit the flag,” he continued. “It’ll just miss or bang off, and it just hit perfectly in the center and dropped down. It was at least probably a two-shot swing. Instead of walking off that green at 6 under I’m 4, maybe 3. It’s a huge swing.”

Remember that if he wins on Sunday.

Watch: Rory McIlroy drains first ace on PGA Tour

2023 Canadian Open updated odds and picks

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Scottie Scheffler: +230
  • Denny McCarthy: 5-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 9-1
  • Keegan Bradley: 12-1
  • Jon Rahm: 18-1
  • Shane Lowry: 22-1

Scheffler is probably going to win, but Cantlay is the better play here. He’s only five back, and he’s been flushing everything he looks at of late. Plus, he likes this golf course. Cantlay has five top-15 finishes in his last five starts at TPC River Highlands, and his number is solid for somebody who’s squarely in the mix and just need’s McCarthy’s putting to regress a bit to reel him in. Scheffler will be a problem, but at +230, it’s OK to let him be a problem and get Cantlay at 9-1 before he shoots 65 on Friday.

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