PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes played bogey-free in his debut at the Players Championship and shot 5-under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt after an opening round Thursday that showed anew that TPC Sawgrass has surprises around every corner.
Few know better than Adam Scott, the 2004 champion, who had a one-shot lead going into the par-3 17th hole.
First, he watched Masters champion Sergio Garcia salvage his poor round by making a hole-in-one at the infamous island green. Scott followed by spinning a shot off the bank and into the water for a double bogey, and he compounded that with another double bogey.
"I played some good golf out there and unfortunately not on the last two," Scott said after settling for 70. "It happens."
Dustin Johnson's first wedge of the day hit the pin, caromed off the green and led to bogey. On a day nothing seemed to go his way, the world's No. 1 player opened with 71. Rory McIlroy went to tap in from 2 feet and missed, and then had to make one twice that long for double bogey on the 10th hole. He shot 73.
Through it all, Hughes was solid. The Players Stadium Course must be easy, huh. Hughes laughed and shook his head. "No. It's very hard."
Sergio's wakeup call
Sergio Garcia thought the loudest cheer he might hear all day would be at the first tee when he was introduced as the Masters champion.
That was before he stood on the 17th tee with a gap wedge in his hand and watched his shot bounce in front of the pin on the island green, land just behind the hole and spin back slightly into the cup.
"The feeling was great," he said.
Garcia was 4 over through six holes to start the tournament and had not made up any ground until a birdie on the 16th, his ace on the 17th and a par save on the 18th for 73.
"I think I wasn't quite in the tournament because of everything that's been going on after the Masters win," he said. "I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4 over after six."
Rory McIlroy said he needed to drop a few pounds coming off his recent wedding and honeymoon. He also revealed after opening with a 73 that he re-aggravated a rib injury in the build up to this week's championship, which limited his preparation.
McIlroy missed two months this season with the injury.
"I've been very limited hitting golf balls," McIlroy said. " Just aggravated that joint in my back again."
McIlroy said he is resting and managing his back, and will pay more attention to recovery when he's off next week before beginning a busy summer.
Jordan the grounds keeper
Jordan Spieth was so irritated by a poor rake job in the bunker left of the first green that he wanted to document the evidence. So he reached into his bag for his phone and took a picture.
"It was just a bunker that was raked to where it just kind of looked like somebody didn't really care much to do it or were rushing off the green," Spieth said. "And I overreacted probably a bit, but all in all, you just don't see that very often."
Compounding the frustration, Spieth blasted out to 45 feet and three-putted for double bogey. He was never under par the rest of the day and shot 73.
Number of the day
18 Balls in the water at the No. 17 island green in the first round