William McGirt shares the lead after 18 holes at The Players Championship


Scott's was the most dramatic stumble - finding the water at the 17th, moments after playing partner Sergio Garcia aced the famous island green par-3.

He was playing in the same group as Rickie Fowler, the 2015 champion who also got off to a fast start until one bad shot - a really bad shot - on his 15th hole at the par-4 seventh. "You know, I hit two flawless shots and I make a 5 on No. 1, then hit two good shots on 2, and horseshoed a four- footer".

Spieth's fate was sealed when his tee shot on No. 17 found the water en route to a double bogey, but he put the blame for his performance squarely on his short game.

Earlier, Hughes birdied three of five holes at one point to shoot up the board. "There's no answer, honestly; you just kind of see the shot and hit the shot and see the putt and hit the putt".

Day was still just three shots back after he signed his first-round card.

"I've played here 25 years, so it's not like that one round was going to make a big difference", Mickelson said. "I did a lot of really good things, a lot of good shots, a lot of birdies, made an eagle, it's great".

First, Scott watched Masters champion Sergio Garcia salvage his poor round by making a hole-in-one at the infamous island green.

"I needed it after the start I had", he said of the ace.

The BMW PGA Championship takes place in a fortnight's time and has a prize fund of £5.4million as the first event of the European Tour's Rolex Series.

A more logical explanation would be the exacting nature of TPC Sawgrass, which had McIlroy scrambling and head-shaking his way through a back nine that featured two double bogeys.

"I've been very limited hitting golf balls", McIlroy said.

McIlroy was just five shots off the clubhouse lead when he finished his round, but ended the day nine adrift of former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and American Kyle Stanley.

Hughes said having the lead is a welcomed feeling after missing a few cuts in a row.

Francesco Molinari, who putted poorly during weekend rounds of 72-75 to finish T24 at the Wells Fargo Championship, shot 69 at THE PLAYERS after switching to TaylorMade's popular Spider Tour Red putter. "I felt a bit of stiffness on Sunday, hit a couple of drives and didn't feel quite right".

"I don't need to play a practice round out here", McGirt said.

Willett, who has a history of back injuries, has missed four cuts in nine tournaments this season.

But he is hopeful the injury is not serious, saying: "I'm getting a MRI on Monday when I land back in Belfast, just treatment now".

But the four-time major victor then bogeyed the fifth and although he did birdie the ninth for the third day running, he was unable to pick up further shots on the par-five 11th or short 12th, where his long-iron tee-shot bounded through the green.



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