Jason Day simply reminded everybody who is No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings.
The Aussie shot a bogey-free 9-under-par 63 that tied the course record and took a two-stroke lead over five players in the Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Day, whose last round on the course was an 81 when he missed the cut a year ago, started on the back nine and birdied his first three holes, was 4-under at the turn and added four birdies on the front nine.
“I just played solid from tee-to-green and was very comfortable with the putter,” said Day, who would have broken the record had his 39-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole not lipped out. “I really wanted that one at No. 8 to get the course record, but I’ll settle for a tie.
” … The greens were very receptive out there. The temperature was hot, so the ball was going a long way, and when the ball goes a long way, you’re coming in with shorter clubs if you hit the fairways.
“When you shoot 63 you think you might have a big lead, but so many guys are playing well, so it’s only two.”
Day, who has won six of his last 16 starts around the world, equaled the record set by Fred Couples in 1992 and tied by Greg Norman in 1994, Roberto Castro in 2013 and Martin Kaymer in 2014.
Shane Lowry of Ireland made an eagle on the 11th hole and set a course record of 29 on the back nine in a 64 that put him in a tie for second with Cameron Tringale of Laguna Niguel, Justin Rose of England, Bill Haas, and Brendan Steele of Idyllwild and UC Riverside.
Ernie Els of South Africa eagled the second hole and had five birdies on the back nine in a 66 that tied for seventh with Francesco Molinari of Italy, Hudson Swafford, Brooks Koepka, Boo Weekley and Daniel Berger.
James Hahn of Alameda and Cal, who the won the Wells Fargo Championship last week, made two late birdies in a 67 and was tied for 13th with Zach Johnson, Jerry Kelly, Gary Woodland, Danny Lee of New Zealand, Nick Taylor of Canada, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, Ryan Palmer, Jonas Blixt of Sweden and Alex Cejka of Germany.
Fourth-ranked Bubba Watson made three birdies down the stretch and was tied for 33rd after a 69, Phil Mickelson, the 2007 Players champion, was tied for 41st and 70 and seventh-ranked Adam Scott of Australia, the 2004 champion, was tied for 102nd after hitting two shots into the water en route to a quadruple bogey-8 on the last hole.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler, ranked fifth, hit his second shot into the water on the 18th hole and took a double bogey-6 that left him at 72 and in a tie for 83rd that included second-ranked Jordan Spieth, who made a double bogey-7 on his last hole, No. 9, and third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.