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Tom Kim shoots 62 to lead Travelers, with world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler 3 shots behind

Tom Kim, of South Korea, lines up a shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig
Tom Kim, of South Korea, lines up a shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim gorged themselves on pizza to get their shared birthday celebration out of the way before turning their focus to golf this week.

When they tee it up on the big day, they’ll be fighting for the lead at the Travelers Championship.

Kim shot an 8-under-par 62 on Thursday in the first round at the TPC River Highlands, good for a two-stroke lead in the final limited field, no-cut signature event on this year's PGA Tour schedule. Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, was tied for sixth, three shots back.

Kim will turn 22 on Friday, and Scheffler is exactly six years older. The Dallas-area residents marked the occasion in advance by heading about 30 miles south to Sally’s — a New Haven institution.

“I had a lot of pizza,” Kim said. “I wouldn’t do that in a tournament, but it’s my birthday and it’s kind of a tradition. Me, Scottie, we have the same birthday, so we had an early birthday celebration.”

Kim birdied the last two holes to separate himself from the four players tied at minus-6 on the 6,835-yard, par-70 course: Rickie Fowler, Akshay Bhatia, Kurt Kitayama and Will Zalatoris.

Scheffler was among seven players at 5 under, looking again like the best player in the world a week after finishing tied for 41st at Pinehurst No. 2 — his worst performance of the year. Wyndham Clark, who tied for 56th in his U.S. Open defense, was another shot back at 4 under.

Scheffler has five wins already this year and has only missed the top ten twice — including last week, when he posted his worst finish in nine majors since he missed the cut at the 2022 PGA Championship.

“Definitely feel like I’m swinging a lot better than I did last week,” he said. “It’s nice to get here on some familiar surfaces and hit some good putts and see some balls go in.”

Kim was even par and tied for ninth through 54 holes at Pinehurst before closing with a 76 to finish tied for 26th. On Thursday, with temperatures in the mid-90s and little wind, he had five birdies on the back nine of a bogey-free round.

“Obviously a tough day on Sunday, but it wasn't like I was playing terrible,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad week, but a bad round cost me the week. ... That gives me confidence to go out and that actually I am playing well and just trying to keep riding this momentum.”

Kim's slump lasted for a single round. Scheffler’s could be over after one week. Fowler is hoping to snap out of a season-long skid.

The six-time winner on the PGA Tour has just one top-25 finish this year and none in the top 10. But he can console himself with the knowledge that things aren’t as bad as they were during a four-year winless drought that ended last year in Detroit.

“I try not to go back to those times too much,” Fowler said. “Definitely not anywhere as bad as it was a few years back, but some similarities there. Having been through that and dealt with that and ultimately coming back to playing well, I can deal with just about anything."

Fowler saved par after hitting his drive into the rough on the first hole, and he thinks that might have been the kick-start he needed. He followed that up with back-to-back birdies in a bogey-free round.

“Sometimes I would almost rather (do) that than birdie the first hole, because then it’s kind of downhill from there,” he said. “So, yeah, got off to a nice start. Started to see some balls go in, and making putts kind of frees up the rest of the game to where you don’t feel like you have to be perfect.”

Zalatoris birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine — and eight in 10 holes making the turn — to make a brief appearance at 7 under. He bogeyed the 157-yard, par-3 16th, flying the green on his tee shot and then two-putting from 55 feet.

With an 8-footer for birdie and sole possession of the lead on No. 18, Zalatoris pushed it wide right.

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