Travelers Championship - Round One
Getty Images

Thursday was a jarring return to PGA Tour golf following that classic U.S. Open at Pinehurst on Sunday evening. But as wild as the swing was back to 62s and 64s, the leaderboard remains stacked after Round 1. Though this is almost always the case at a signature event, this week has provided a particularly interesting top of the board with varying styles of play carrying the day.

Tom Kim leads after a stunning 62 in Round 1, but he may not be the most compelling story. Rickie Fowler and Akshay Bhatia -- who have had wildly differing seasons -- are up near the top, and they're joined by names like Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele.

Let's take a closer look at Kim's round and what's in store for the next three day as the eighth and final signature event of the year unfolds at TPC River Highlands.

The leader

1. Tom Kim (-8)

This is such an eclectic top of the board, and Kim symbolizes that. He is not the biggest hitter nor the most talented player, but he was awesome on Thursday on the eve of his 22nd birthday. What did he do well? Everything. And while his putter carried him to the 62, as we discussed on the First Cut Podcast, this is the type of course on which Kim can compete. 

Kim, who hit 11 of 14 fairways, laid out that blueprint on Thursday.

"I just, I hit the ball in the fairway a lot," he said. "Obviously this course if you start hitting the ball in the fairway you can kind of go at some pins and have some good opportunities. 

"Obviously, I putted well," he continued. "When you shoot 62s or 64s, you got to putt well, and I took care of that opportunity. My targets overall, like I picked really good targets out there with my approach shots. When you have 8-irons in, sometimes you want to go for the pin a lot, but at the same time you just kind of go into this head space where, okay, 'I have, this is where I need to pick my target, I don't feel like I need to push or anything' and just sticking to that game plan."

Other contenders

T2. Rickie Fowler, Akshay Bhatia, Will Zalatoris, Kurt Kitayama (-6)
T6. Taylor Pendrith, Mackenzie Hughes, Patrick Rodgers, Scottie Scheffler, Cam Davis, Tony Finau (-5)

Fowler and Bhatia have been going in different directions this year. Bhatia is having the best season of his career (by far), and Fowler is having one of the worst. Still, they arrived at dueling 64s in nearly the same way. 

The difference is that, even though both were hot with the putter on Thursday, it's only Bhatia that has real staying power given how well he's been playing. Following his Texas Open victory and some nice showings at major championships, contention at a signature event is a logical next step for the 22-year-old.

The guy that I've got my eye on, though, is somebody one back of Fowler and Bhatia. It's Tony. Finau. Big Tone led the field in approach play on Thursday, and he's been playing really solid golf with a T18 at the PGA, T17 at the Charles Schwab Challenge, T8 at the Memorial and T3 at the U.S. Open. That looks like a trend to me, and if he keeps striking it like he did on Thursday, I think it's going to continue this weekend.

Scottie's bounce back

After winning five of eight PGA Tour events, there was a lot of consternation over Scheffler's near missed cut at the U.S. Open last week.

He's bounced back nicely, though, with yet another 65 that feels like an automatic number at regular PGA Tour stops currently. His putter found a little fire in Round 1, and his odds to win the tournament actually dropped even though he's three back of the lead and not currently in the top five.

"I feel like I hit it nice," said Scheffler. "Found some swings, or found some stuff in my swing at the beginning of the week, and definitely feel like I'm swinging a lot better than I did last week."

"It's kind of hard to explain, to be honest with you," Scheffler said of what he found in his swing. "But just really getting better feel coming at the top of my swing, making sure my grip's kind of in the right position."

After hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation, I would say the grip is in a better position than before.

2024 Travelers Championship updated odds and picks

  • Scottie Scheffler: 5/2
  • Xander Schauffele: 6-1
  • Tom Kim: 6-1
  • Collin Morikawa: 12-1
  • Tony Finau: 16-1
  • Will Zalatoris: 20-1
  • Akshay Bhatia: 20-1
  • Ludvig Aberg: 20-1

Scheffler at 5/2 is wild considering his position on the leaderboard, but that's emblematic of the kind of year he's having. I'd much rather have Finau at 16-1 or Bhatia at 20-1 than Scheffler at 5/2. Those are two horses I would go with going into Friday's second round, and I think at least one of them will be there until the end on Sunday.