CROMWELL, Conn. — Marc Leishman called TPC River Highlands “as gettable as I’ve ever seen this place.’’
Well, Mackenzie Hughes went out and got it in Thursday’s opening round of the Travelers Championship.
The 29-year-old Canadian set a scorching pace playing in the morning wave of tee times, posting a 10-under 60 to take a three-shot lead into Friday’s second round.
In the span of a day, the talk around the Travelers went from the Wednesday withdrawals of Brooks Koepka and his brother Chase, Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell because of COVID-19-related issues to Hughes’ might and a 59 watch.
Hughes, who began his round on the 10th hole, shot a 29 on his opening nine (the back) and had a look at 59 with a birdie putt on No. 9, his final hole, but left it short.
Still, his 60, which included 10 birdies and no bogeys, was good enough for a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland and a four-shot lead over several players, including Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.
For professional golfers, 59 is a magical number — like breaking the four-minute mile barrier is for a runner.
“That one shot means a lot more than 61 to 60,’’ Hughes said. “That’s a big leap. I kind of joked walking off there that 59 wasn’t even the record because Jim [Furyk’s] 58 [in the 2016 Travelers]. I mean,  is probably not even that special around here. But for a personal milestone, it would have been really, really neat. You just don’t get very many chances in your life to do it.
“But … you’d take 60 every day and run.’’
Especially when it comes four days after he shot 18 shots higher with his 78 in the final round of the RBC Heritage Championship on Sunday to finish second-to-last.
“I actually felt pretty good on Sunday at Harbour Town and was playing well over there and … for whatever reason it’s one of those days where you’re kind of shoveling [expletive] uphill and nothing is going right,’’ Hughes said. “I don’t really know what to put a finger on it for. It’s just one of those things that golf does sometimes. No difference really from Sunday to here. Just 18 shots.’’
And a three-shot lead.