PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Keegan Bradley and England’s Tommy Fleetwood shot 7-under-par 65s on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of The Players Championship.
While the scores were uncommonly low at TPC Sawgrass as the winds stayed fairly calm, Fleetwood turned in one of only six bogey-free rounds on the day. The majority of the low scores came during the morning wave.
“Very happy, I’ll take that and move on and go have my lunch,” Fleetwood said after the round. “I played really, really well. It was nice to just hit a lot of good golf shots. I was really good off the tee, and I put myself in good positions all throughout the day.”
Brian Harman and South Korea’s Byeong Hun An are tied for second at 6 under with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy another shot back at 5 under along with Vaughn Taylor and Ryan Moore.
There are 10 players within three shots of the lead, with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini part of a group at 4 under that also includes Brendan Steele, J.T. Poston, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Kisner.
Fleetwood and Bradley both began their rounds on the back nine.
While Fleetwood did most of his damage with a 6-under 30 over his final nine holes on the front nine, Bradley shot out of the gates with birdies on two of his first three holes. He traded a bogey and a birdie before knocking his second shot on the par-5 16th hole to within 10 feet and converting the eagle putt.
Bradley birdied the 18th hole and then added two more birdies over his final nine holes. Perhaps the biggest shot of the day was his third on the par-5 second after shanking his approach into the trees. Bradley overcame a gnarly lie to punch his ball onto the green and went on to save par.
“It’s one of those rounds that just felt easy,” Bradley told the Golf Channel. “I rarely ever have rounds like that. It was just a fun day that everything went right.”
Fleetwood reeled off three consecutive birdies to close out his opening round, and said the putts simply started to fall in on his back nine.
“If you would have asked me this morning a 65, I would have quite happily sat in the locker room and not moved,” said Fleetwood.
Tiger Woods is five shots off the lead after battling his way to a 2-under 70. Woods struggled with misses both left and right off the tee throughout the round, but also rolled in six birdies against four bogeys.
Woods birdied the 16th and 17th holes to put himself in position for just his second opening round in the 60s at TPC Sawgrass, but pulled his 4-foot par put on the 18th hole left of the cup.
Woods played in the afternoon round, when players had to deal with bumpier greens and stronger winds.
“It was tricky out there today,” he told the Golf Channel. “I was hoping that we would get the brunt of the wind early and then it would die down. It died down a little bit, it wasn’t so bad, but the greens got a little bit on the bumpier side towards the end. Became a little more challenging to make the putts.”
Other notable names include top-ranked Dustin Johnson (3 under), No. 2 in the world Justin Rose (2 over), Nos. 3 and 4 Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas (1 under) and Phil Mickelson (2 over.)
Woods said he came out of the round feeling good after skipping last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational due to a neck injury.
“Neck’s fine … yeah, neck’s good,” he said. “Just wish that putt would have gone in on the last hole.”
Notes: Moore hit only the ninth hole-in-one on the famed par-3 17th hole in the history of The Players. It came just minutes after Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo hit the flagstick with his tee shot, with the ball nearly rolling back into the water. Grillo went on to make par. Moore’s ace came from 121 yards. None of the previous players to hit a hole-in-one on the 17th hole has gone on to win The Players. … Harris English made just the second albatross in the history of the event on the par-5 11th when he holed out from 236 yards. … Wyndham Clark was the last player in the field after Pat Perez withdrew due to an Achilles injury. Clark subsequently was disqualified for incorrectly signing his scorecard for a 79 when he shot 80.
–Field Level Media