Tommy Fleetwood of England and Keegan Bradley found themselves in the same place for the second week in a row.
Fleetwood and Bradley, who were tied for the lead after the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, shot 7-under-par 65s to shared the top spot after the first round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass https://tpc.com/sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The tournament is being played in March, rather than May, for the first time since 2006.
“I drove the ball great today, which is key and the strength of my game,” said Fleetwood, who tied for third last week. “I played lovely (after starting) on the back nine but had nothing to show for it, but then made six birdies on the front. I got on a nice run.
“This is a great golf course, one of the toughest we play and one of the fairest. A good score is there, but it can punish you, too. So far, the course is softer (than in May). The greens are softer (than in May), so it’s a different test in that way. But if you play well, you can score.”
Fleetwood (pictured left), who has won seven times as a pro but is looking for his first PGA Tour victory, collected six birdies while finishing on the front nine.
Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, had six birdies and highlighted his round with a 12-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole.
“It was one of those rounds that just felt easy and you rarely have rounds like that,” said Bradley, who struggled on the weekend last week and skidded to a tie for 46th. “It was just one of those days where everything went right. I had a nice putt for eagle and was able to bury it.
“Everything comes down to putting at this time of my career and I’ve been working on some things for the last month that are working. But you just have to keep it going around this place.”
Byeong Hun An of South Korea and Brian Harman closed with birdies to shoot 66 and tie for third, while sixth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland had a bogey-free 67 and is tied for fifth with Vaughn Taylor and Ryan Moore, who made a hole in one from 121 yards on the island green at No. 17.
Brendan Steele of Idyllwild and UC Riverside posted a 68 and is tied for eighth with Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia, J.T. Poston, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Kisner.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson opened with a 69 and is in a tie for 13th that includes 10th-ranked Jon Rahm, while two-time Players champion Tiger Woods shot 70 and is in a tie fir 35th that includes fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis and eighth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State.
Fourth-ranked Justin Thomas is tied for 52nd at 71, while third-ranked Brooks Koepka and seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari finished at 72 to tie for 70th, and second-ranked Justin Thomas struggled to a 74 to wind up in a tie for 104th that includes Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, who was battling the flu.
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