PONTE VEDRA BEACH: Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes and William McGirt fired identical five-under par 67s to take the co-lead following the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday.
Alex Noren, of Sweden, Spain’s Jon Rahm, J.B. Holmes and Chez Reavie shot 68s and are one stroke back at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“Very pleased. One of those days where I kept out of trouble,” said Hughes, of Hamilton, Ontario. “When I missed the greens I did it in the right spots and when I needed a par I was able to do it.”
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari of Italy head a list of 11 players who shot 69 and are two strokes off the lead.
American Phil Mickelson, defending champion Jason Day of Australia, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott of Australia are among those who shot 70 and are three strokes behind. Day, however, made three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a two-under score.
World number one Dustin Johnson tops a large group at 71 that also includes German Bernhard Langer, who at 59 is the oldest player in the tournament.
Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and this year’s Masters champion Sergio Garcia all shot 73.
Garcia’s round was highlighted by a hole in one on the island hole No. 17. Garcia is the second to achieve the feat in as many years following Willy Wilcox’s previous ace on the par-three.
Garcia said it was nice to post an ace after getting off to a rocky beginning.
“The feeling was great,” Garcia said. “I think I wasn’t quite in the tournament because of everything that’s been going on after the Masters win and media and people congratulating you left, right and centre.
“I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4 over after six.”
McGirt had three birdies on the front nine and eagled both of the par-fives on the back nine to offset two bogeys. Last year’s Memorial Tournament winner McGirt is just the 26th player to record two eagles in one round during The Players Championship.
This is the fifth time McGirt has held the lead or a share of the lead after 18 holes, but he has yet to convert an opening round lead into a victory.
Hughes had a solid round of five birdies and no bogeys. He is also a one-time winner, capturing the 2017 RSM Classic in October.
Last year’s Masters champion Danny Willett shot a 79.
David Toms (back) and Kevin Na (illness) withdrew from the tournament during Thursday’s round.--AFP