Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau put on a silent show

Bubba Watson said it out loud the other day.

“Do you want me to answer that PC, or do you want me to answer that honestly?” he asked with a smile earlier this week at the Travelers Championship.

Do PGA Tour professionals care who they play with? Do they care at all? Do they pay attention when featured groups are announced every Tuesday and the full list of departure times is released on Wednesday?

“Yes, it matters a lot,” Watson said. “There are guys who have a shot, maybe a 2-shot penalty when you see his name on that sheet. Maybe that’s what they say about me too, so I guess it works both ways. I like to have fun and be energetic.” . You know, when you see a certain name, you know you can joke, you know you can have fun and get away from stress and not talk and just walk down the street.

“You know, yeah, I hope to see who the pairings are, and sometimes I start praying early trying to get a good one.”

The travelers collected some good ones this week. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The first group of tents that came out Thursday morning, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, put on a show. It looked good, it sounded different.

Normally, TPC River Highlands would have featured a constant buzz as McIlroy took an early lead with a low 7 63. (He was later overtaken by Mackenzie Hughes’ opening round 60). Mickelson and DeChambeau published 64 matches. Instead of roars, however, there was silence as the three put on a show that no one saw, unless they are logged into a computer, iPad, or phone, or have a home within walking distance of TPC River Highlands.

“It’s still very different,” said McIlroy. “Everything is very different, from the environment, the routine. [The coronavirus pandemic is] not behind us, obviously. We are still right in the middle of this. But it has been nice to return to competitive golf again. You know, it doesn’t feel the same because you don’t have thousands of people reacting to your birdies and making that work. “

This is how it happened:

Rory McIlroy

He barely made the cut last week at RBC Heritage, sliding 2 shots below the number. Oddly, that might have been what led to 63 on Thursday.

“The two rounds last week at the weekend were very helpful to me this week,” said McIlroy. “It would have been terrible to miss the cut and not have those two rounds, not as a practice, because you’re trying to get yourself into a contest, but at the same time there are a lot of important things to come at the end of the year, and that’s really what you’re toward. trying to build. “

Starting in the last nine, he had 13, his fourth hole of the day, then made birdies 14 and 15. With four more birdies in his second nine of the day, it all added up to 64.

Since returning from close, seven of his nine rounds have been on par and he has passed 66 or more four times.

Phil Mickelson

Sure, he shot 64. And he’s in the mix, trying to win race number 45 and the first since he turned 50 nine days ago. But his day was well under way before signing his scorecard. On Thursday, the USGA announced its exemption criteria for this year’s US Open at Winged Foot. Just like that, Mickelson was on the field. Until then, he was outside looking in.

“No, that worked very well, so I could know that I have a chance to go back to Winged Foot and give it another try,” said Mickelson, who had one of his many painful winnings at the US Open in Winged Foot. in 2006. “But I’ve had 30 starts in the United States. I’ve had a lot of opportunities.”

On top of that, all he did was go out and shoot a 64-birdie, no-bogey 64. And it was even more fun with McIlroy and DeChambeau for the ride. “So I love what I do,” said Mickelson. “I love my job. I love to play and compete, and I really enjoy playing with guys like Rory and Bryson who are tremendous talents. I also enjoy trying to play and compete regardless of age.”

Bryson DeChambeau

He has been the subject of conversation in the world of golf due to his new plan to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to go far. Mickelson, on seeing him up close, was impressed.

“Yes, I definitely feel like I can let it go a lot more,” DeChambeau said earlier in the week about the freedom to walk away at TPC River Highlands.

Nine times in Thursday’s first round he hit units of more than 300 yards, five of them traveling more than 330. He entered the tournament second behind Cameron Champ, who had to withdraw after a positive coronavirus test.

“Bryson has a unique style of play that is fascinating, and he plays at the highest level,” said Mickelson. “I enjoy watching and learning.”

In the first post-closing event, DeChambeau finished T3 at the Charles Schwab Challenge, then it was T8 at RBC Heritage.