World No.2 Rory McIlroy insists he is not playing to prove a point with the PGA Tour facing the biggest threat in its history from Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Invitational Series.
The Northern Irishman won the Canadian Open a fortnight ago and contended at last week’s US Open, eventually finishing joint fifth.
On Thursday he equalled his lowest opening round on the American tour with a bogey-free 62 at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
His eight-under-par score gave him a share of the lead with American JT Poston, one ahead of Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and Scotland’s Martin Laird, and maintained his recent good form.
But the 33-year-old dismissed suggestions the ructions caused by the Saudi-backed breakaway had helped him up his game.
“I just think it so happens that the most protective of the PGA Tour are the best players in the world right now,” he said.
“I’m not going out to try to prove anything to anyone. I’m in a good run of form. I’m playing well.
“Whether that gives me a little more confidence to speak up on certain issues, maybe, but I’m just going out there trying to play my game and trying to win some more tournaments.”
McIlroy produced a brilliant round at TPC River Highlands with eight birdies despite hitting just seven of 14 fairways.
Starting on the back nine he got his round going with a chip-in at the par-five 13th having blasted his greenside bunker shot into the far fringe.
Two more birdies saw him turn in 32 but he then rattled off four more in seven holes – including a 48-footer on the seventh.
However, he saved his best until the par-four last when he cut the corner with a 332-yard drive to leave him 44 yards to the pin and chipped up for a tap-in birdie and get to eight under.
Schauffele hit 18 greens in regulation despite a rushed start to his round after a mix-up over tee times meant his arrival at the course was slightly more rushed than usual.
His bogey-free round of 63 was matched by Laird, who was pleased to finally find some form on the greens.
Australian Cam Davis produced an impressive five-under 65 to be tied eighth.
The 27-year-old Sydneysider made a hot start, beginning with opening birdies before adding two more to turn on 31.
He added three more birdies on the second nine but bogeys on the 10th and 14th stymied his progress.
Brett Drewitt (69) is the next best Australian at one under, while Marc Leishman and Jason Day opened with 71 and 74 respectively.