Tom Kim tops a stacked leaderboard as TPC River Highlands yields more low scores at 2024 Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, Conn. — On a day that felt like two thanks to a three-hour and 10-minute rain delay, the Travelers Championship provided golf lovers with exactly what they have come to expect from the only PGA Tour event held in the Northeast: low scores.

In the third round of last week’s U.S. Open, the 74 players who made the cut carded 167 birdies, but this Saturday, the 70 players in the field here made 347 birdies.

Before the storms arrived, Cameron Young provided plenty of electricity by becoming the 12th man to shoot a 59 in a PGA Tour event. Playing in nearly windless conditions on a course softened by rain that fell Friday evening, he started by going 5 under through his first four holes en route to a front-nine 28, then birdied 13, eagled the par-4 15th and stuffed a 9-iron to five feet to set up a final birdie on the 17th hole.

Coming off a 66 in the second round, you might think that Young would be in the lead, but this is the Travelers Championship, where Keegan Bradley won last year at 23 under. Young’s 13 under total was dusted by major winners and several young stars who are eyeing the $3.6 million prize for winning this signature event.

After making his first bogey of the week on the fourth hole Saturday, Tom Kim, who had the lead after both the first and second rounds, made birdies on the fifth, sixth, eighth and 11th holes to reach 16 under. Kim made two more birdies on the back nine as darkness descended on the course to shoot 65 and take a one-shot lead into Sunday.

“The wind kind of died down after the delay, so the greens were really soft and fairways were soft and there’s no wind, so obviously there were a lot of birdies out there,” Kim said. “I didn’t really look at leaderboards, but when you get soft conditions out there like that, it’s definitely gettable and I feel like I executed well enough to have a good round today.”

Kim is trying to be the 12th wire-to-wire winner at the Travelers Championship and the first since Jordan Spieth won in 2017.

With more storms in the forecast to be around TPC River Highlands on Sunday afternoon, the PGA Tour decided on Saturday to group players in three instead of twos and have the first group start at 6:50 a.m. ET. The hope is to conclude play at the Travelers Championship by 4 p.m. ET.

Kim, at 18 under, will be in the final group on Sunday, paired with Akshay Bhatia, who shot 64 on Saturday, while paired with Masters champion and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who also shot 64. Bhatia and Scheffler will each start Sunday one shot behind Kim at 17 under.

“I was pretty nervous stepping on that first tee today playing with him, and I think it’s kind of my first time playing in that many, in front of that many people,” Bhatia admitted Saturday evening. “It was really cool. (The fans were) 90 percent Scottie, 10 percent me, which is all right, but it was awesome.”

Scottie Scheffler sinks a putt on the second hole during the third round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds like Scheffler had fun too.

“Sometimes, when you’re in pairs, you can feed off each other the wrong or the right way. Today, especially at the end, we were feeding off each other what I would say in the right way,” Scheffler said. “It’s always a good thing.”

Asked if he anticipated that it would be hard to separate from the crowded leaderboard on Sunday, given the soft conditions and low scores, Scheffler said, “It really depends on the weather. I think I saw that the winds were going to be up a little bit, and it depends if we get more rain overnight. So there will be a few different factors going into it, but I’ll wake up tomorrow, see how the course is playing and go from there.”

Xander Schauffele, who won the Travelers Championship two years ago and quietly shot a pair of 65s to start this year’s event, made birdies at two, three, six and the ninth hole, and then three more on the back-nine before a bogey on 18 left him with a 64. He is at 16 under.

The golf medal winner from the Tokyo Olympics knows that on Sunday, he’ll need to circle a lot of his scores if he wants to contend.

“It feels like, more than ever, you’re going to have to keep your head down,” he said. “It’s kind of been my motto, to stay in my lane, for quite some time and I think tomorrow it’s going to hold pretty true. You might par the first two or three holes and feel like you’re miles behind, but you can get on a run at any point on this golf course.”

Collin Morikawa will start Sunday at 16, tied with Sungjae Im, while Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Shane Lowry will begin the final round at 14 under.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek