Newly-Crowned U.S. Open Champion Tees it Up Thursday

Fresh off his sparkling win in the U.S. Open at Merion, Justin Rose had a bit more bounce in his step when he started play Thursday in the opening round of the Travelers Championship. Introduced as the "2013 U.S. Open Champion," Rose went on to shoot a respectable 3-under 67, six strokes back of 18-hole leader Charley Hoffman.

Like the East Course at Merion near Philadelphia, the site of the 113th U.S. Open, the TPC River Highlands is also a par-70 layout. But the course in Cromwell, Conn., shouldn't pose quite the degree of difficulty as the diabolical East Course with its corridor-like fairways, deep rough and tilted, fast greens.

Nor will the regular PGA Tour stop have quite the level of tension as the year's second Grand Slam event. And that's just fine with Rose. "It's a perfect week for the week after a major," said Rose, whose winning score at Merion was a 1-over 281, two strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. "It's got challenges out there, but the challenge is, can you go low?"

Defending champion Marc Leishman of Australia showed he could do that, firing a last-round 8-under 62 to finish at 14-under 266 and nail down his first win in the States.

Rose has enjoyed some success in the Travelers. The five-time PGA Tour winner, who also has six European Tour titles, has played in the event seven times, logging three top-10 finishes.

Understandably, the Englishman told reporters Wednesday he's a bit exhausted after last weekend. Part of that was competing in - and winning -the grueling U.S. Open. But there were also television appearances in New York City and some celebrating to be done.

"I was doing my best to try to soak in being the U.S. Open champion," he said. "Went on some great shows I've seen on TV, and then to be part of it, is a slightly surreal moment too."

Following his first career major, Rose soared into third in the latest World Golf Ranking. He supplanted Masters' winner Adam Scott and currently trails only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in the standings.

In addition to Rose, who's paired with Keegan Bradley and Zach Johnson in the first round (they start on the first hole at 12:50), the Travelers includes five other players positioned in the top-20. The others include Lee Westwood (12), Keegan Bradley (14), Jason Dufner (17), Ian Poulter (18), and Bubba Watson (19).

It would have been understandable if Rose passed on this week's tournament. But he didn't even consider such a move. "The whole thought process has been a three-week run," said Rose, whose third tournament in a row will be next week's AT&T National. "I figured I won't interrupt that.

"I'm still hoping - hoping is the wrong word," he added. "I'm expecting to go out there and put in a good performance. I still think that the same discipline I showed at the U.S. Open applies this week."

He also believes playing in the Travelers is a great way to follow up the pressure-packed U.S. Open. "It's a perfect week for the week after a major," he said. "It's a good atmosphere to keep you up, but at the same time it's a really fun course to play."

Though TPC River Highlands has yielded several low 72-hole scores over the years - including three of minus-20 or lower, Rose doesn't expect a cakewalk this week.

"It's got its challenges out there, but the challenge is can you go low when you need to go low?" the 32-year-old said. "It's fun to be able to shoot in the low-60s, if you play really, really well.

"But you've still got to put four good rounds of golf together around here. So, yeah, looking forward to the slight breather from a scoring point of view, but at the same time, that presents its own challenges."