Sergio Garcia, winner of the 2008 edition of the PGA TOUR’s marquee event, leads THE PLAYERS Championship by two shots as the sun set over TPC Sawgrass on Thursday evening.
“I don’t know, I just love it,” Garcia after matching his career best round at TPC Sawgrass with an opening round 65. “for some reason they just, it just kind of fits my eye. I see what I want to do pretty much every hole and then it’s a matter of doing it, but it definitely I feel more comfortable and I’ve done well.”
Garcia’s fantastic first round almost didn’t happen as he cut it close getting to the 10th tee (he started on the back) and almost missed his tee time and found his playing partners Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy laughing as he jogged up to the tee box.
“I thought I had plenty of time,” Garcia said. “Obviously I left the range at 7:35, I was teeing off at 7:40 so I figured it’s going to take me probably two, three minutes at most to get to 10. I don’t know if the clock on the range was behind or something, but when I got to the putting green just like 50 yards short of 10 I kind of looked at it and sun was coming up so I couldn’t see if it was 7. Of the 38 or 7:39 but just in case I just took a little stroll, made sure that I got there before it turned to 40. But I think it was just about to turn to 7:39 so I actually had a little bit more time than I thought.”
Even though Garcia had his way with the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the home of golf’s fifth major was not as kind to most of the field including one of his playing partners McIlroy, who finished with a three-putt bogey for a 79.
“Obviously the big number one 18 didn’t help and then doubling the 1st wasn’t helpful either,” McIlroy said. “So yeah, I just think just it’s hard to recover when you just haven’t played good. I mean regardless if you take that 18th hole out it still wasn’t a very good day.”
Brian Harman is two shots back of Garcia at 5-under, one shot ahead of a group of three golfers at 4-under.
Bryson DeChambeau, winner last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, is in a tie for 6th at 3-under although the PGA TOUR made left of the 18th hole on No. 9 an internal out of bounds after the reigning U.S. Open champion mentioned he might take the route on the closing hole.
“I probably shouldn’t have said anything,” DeChambeau said. “Knowing that now, I won’t, now I won’t ever say any lines that I’m taking anymore, but that’s okay. I understand it. I’ve got no issues with it. I understand why, from a safety precaution reason, totally get it. But I’m going to keep myself a little quiet next time for lines that I’m going to try to obtain.”
"Driver, nine."@B_DeChambeau hit driver-9-iron at the par-5 16th.
Jordan Spieth is in a tie for 12th at 2-under on a day where the three-time major champion found a lot of fairways.
“I think I hit 12 of 14 fairways out here and I pulled driver around the place, so I don’t know if I’ve ever done that here,” Spieth said. “So from the spots I was playing and the shots I hit into greens mid-air, I would have said I should have shot lower, but at the beginning of the day, I would have certainly signed for 70. So it’s kind of — I feel really good about today overall as far as if I’m continuing down the path of, kind of the way things felt today, I feel like lower scores could come from it, which is really nice around this track.”
Phil Mickelson got off to a hot start and currently sits in a tie for 26th at 1-under.
“I haven’t played well in a long time, and although I’ve felt like it’s close, I haven’t been scoring. To finally shoot a decent number, that feels good and I’ll try to build off of that. But the parts have felt like they have been there, but I haven’t been scoring, so to get off to a good start is nice,” Mickelson said.
Of note, there were 35 balls that ended up in the water that encompasses the iconic 17th hole, the second most at THE PLAYERS in the ShotLink era