CROMWELL, Conn. — Charley Hoffman couldn't help but think about last year as he stood at the 17th tee at the Travelers Championship on Thursday.
A year ago, Hoffman hit a tee shot into the water, starting a double bogey-bogey slide that cost him a two-stroke lead and the tournament. This time, his drive stayed on the fairway. And he finished with a par and birdie to shoot a first-round 9-under 61, one off the course record.
"I was thinking about it going down 16, 17, 18," he said. "I got off to a good start and, obviously, was a little more focused on those last two holes."
Hoffman's 28 on the back nine was the lowest nine holes on the PGA Tour this year and left him one shot up on Hunter Mahan.
Hoffman said he thought about shooting 59 after eagles at Nos. 10 and 12 and getting to 8 under with birdie at No. 16.
"I knew I had some chances," he said. "But as I displayed last year, 16, 17 and 18 aren't an easy test.
"So I was just trying to make some pars coming in."
Mahan finished fourth at last weekend's U.S. Open, which he said gave him confidence. He had eight birdies and no bogeys and also was at 8 under with three holes to play before pars at each.
"I think this is the most comfortable course on tour for me," Mahan said. "You can be aggressive off the tee if you want to be, but you can also play it safe. I choose to be mostly aggressive, and it gives me some short irons. I'm happy to take on pins with my short irons. When I step on that tee, I feel like I can hit any shot out here."
Justin Rose, who won the U.S. Open, shot 67.
"I just knew I had to get through (the round) without too much damage," he said. "If you manage to keep it in the mid 60s for most of the week, you should do pretty well."
PGA Europe: Ernie Els recorded an eagle and seven birdies to shoot 9-under 63 and lead after the first round of the BMW International Open in Munich, Germany. Els was one ahead of Matthew Baldwin, Alex Noren, Robert-Jan Derksen and Martin Kaymar.