McIlroy, Schauffele, Clark Share Lead at 65 in the 50th Players Championship

Fifth-ranked Wyndham Clark tried to one-up second-ranked Rory McIlroy and sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele.

Clark (pictured) made three late birdies, but missed a chance on the last hole and is tied for the lead with McIlroy and Schauffele at seven-under-par 65 in the first round of the 50th Players Championship at on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

There were nine players still on the course when darkness halted play and they will return early Friday morning to complete their opening rounds before the second round begins.

“The biggest thing was that I thought my iron play was sharp all day,” said Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion. “I kept myself in good position most of the day and when I was out of position, I was able to get back into the right spot and keep things going.

“This is a difficult course to learn how to play, and I think this is my fifth appearance here and I feel like I’m finally starting to figure it out and begin to feel comfortable out there on this challenging layout.

“Also, I was able to make some putts today and feel good about my game heading into the last three days.”

Clark, who also won the AT&T Pebble Beah Pro-Am last month, made four birdies on each nine against a single bogey on the fourth hole, but missed a tough 31-foot putt on No. 18 that would have given him the outright lead.

McIlroy, the 2019 Players champion from Northern Ireland, collected six of his tournament record 10 birdies in a round after starting on the back nine to offset a bogey at No. 18 after driving into the water, and a double-bogey after hitting his drive into the water on the seventh hole.

“It would be nice to shoot 62 and not have two in the water,” who said he worked hard on his game at the start of this week. “Honestly, I just needed to put the time in. I’ve wanted to play a lot to start this year … but when you play a lot, you don’t maybe get the time to practice all that much.

“I have this amazing feeling with my woods at the minute,” he said Wednesday, “but when I try to recreate that feeling with the irons, it starts left and goes further left. I needed to clean up the technique a little bit, needed to clean up some things.

“It’s sort of already reaping benefits, so that’s nice.”

Schauffele, from La Jolla and San Diego State, made three birdies on his front nine after starting No. 10 and made four more coming home in a bogey-free 65.

He missed a shot from 30 feet on the last hole that would have given him the outright lead.

“I was just playing good golf today,” said Schauffele, who has won seven times on the PGA Tour, including the 2017 Tour Championship. “I’m pretty confident with where my game’s at, and it’s nice to see. I’ve been struggling with the putter a little bit, but it was nice to see some putts go in from distance today and it’s just day one.

“It just seems to be the case out here, that when greens are smooth, when you hit really good putts, they’re going to go in from distance. Being receptive, you can kind of be a little bit more aggressive in spots. The rough is thicker than normal, so if you are hanging out in the rough, you’re not going to be having too much fun.

“But to play bogey-free, it was a good day and I can’t complain.”

Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who dropped out the top 10 this week and now is No. 11 in the world, sank a three-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and added six birdies in a 66 that put him in a tie for fourth with Nick Taylor of Canada, who birdied four of his first seven holes in a bogey-free 66.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the defending Players champion who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, made bogey on the first hole but then had six birdies in a 67 and is in a big tie for sixth with 10th-ranked Ludvig Aberg Sweden, Jason Day of Australia, the 2016 Players champion, Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford, Tom Hoge, Tyler Duncan and Jimmy Stanger, who was five-under-par through 16 holes when the end came.

Eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal shot 68 and is in a tie for 13th, while seventh-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA totaled 72 and is in a tie for 76th that includes ninth-ranked Brian Harman, and fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland or Norway is tied for 88th at 73.

Ryan Fox of New Zealand hit the shot of the day, making a hole in one from 137 yards on the famed 17th hole with the island green and is tied for 22nd at 69.

For complete results and second-round tee times, visit

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