The opening round of the Players, or, THE PLAYERS Championship is officially underway here at TPC Sawgrass. It’s a cool, overcast morning in Ponte Vedra Beach, and players are already getting after it. Of the 36 players out on the course, 14 are under par.
Among that group is Justin Thomas, who birdied his opening hole, the par-4 10th, as did playing partner Xander Schauffele. They are playing alongside Justin Rose as one of the featured groups of the morning wave. Other groups to watch this morning include Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, set to tee off at 9:04 a.m. off the 10th. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia will be in the group ahead.
In the afternoon wave, Tiger Woods leads the way, and he’ll be joined by Patrick Reed and defending champion Webb Simpson on the first tee at 1:27 p.m. Jason Day will tee off 20 minutes later with Tony Finau and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Francesco Molinari. Just behind them will be Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, who looks to snap out of a lengthy slump. The three-time major champion has finished no higher than T-35 in seven events this season.
It should be an action-packed day at THE PLAYERS, the fifth (unofficial) major. Keep it right here in our live blog for all the latest updates.
9:32 a.m.: Justin Thomas has followed up his opening birdie with two more at the 11th and 12th holes, putting him in the solo lead at three under after Howell made bogey at No. 2. He’s among a group at two under that includes Bryson DeChambeau, Beau Hossler, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Billy Horschel.
9:12 a.m.: A wayward drive at the 14th leads to a bogey for Big Hoss, but he’s still two under. That’s now one off the lead of ATM machine Charles Howell III, who just eagled the par-4 fourth from a fairway bunker to get to three under. Strong start for Chucky three sticks. Up until last year, Sawgrass had given Howell fits throughout his career, his best finish being a T-32 all the way back in 2003. But in 2018 he go into contention by opening with rounds of 68 and 67, eventually finishing in a tie for 17th. Perhaps his fortunes are changing at the tricky Pete Dye track.
8:58 a.m.: There are 13 players already under par just an hour into the opening round, many of them marquee names. Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele all grabbed early birdies at the par-4 10th to get to one under. But everybody is trailing Beau Hossler, who birdied his first three holes before making his first par at the par-3 13th. Hossler nearly got his breakthrough victory a year ago at the Houston Open, but Ian Poulter spoiled the party, draining a long birdie putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff. Poulter went on to win, while Hossler picked up his best finish of the season. He finished the summer strong after that, with a T-2 at the Travelers and a T-6 at the Quicken Loans. This season, Hoss has yet to register a top 10, and he’s still searching for an elusive first victory.