News and notables from the first round of The Players

On form Rory Mc Ilroy blasts into contention at Sawgrass yesterday just two behind leader
Tommy Fleetwood

All the players are going to have deal with the notoriously tricky TPC Sawgrass course, including the iconic 17th hole, known as the Island Green, which claims dozens of balls each year to the water.

The Englishman piled up six birdies on the more hard front nine to set a cracking pace with a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 in Ponte Vedra Beach. Fred Couples, Hal Sutton, Steve Elkington and Davis Love III obviously aren't here this week but there is one competitor in the field this week with a chance to join The Golden Bear and I bet you know who it is. "I've done a good job of keeping myself in it", Fleetwood told reporters.

He led by one stroke from South Korean An Byeong-hun and American Brian Harman, and by two from Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.

But Moore avoided the hazards, attacked the flag, and scratched the number one into his scorecard the ninth ace in The Players Championship tournament history, and the first since Sergio Garcia's hole-in-one in 2017. "This is one of the few holes that I can think of that has no bail-out, that has no margin of error, that has no area for recovery", he said in 2007.

"I actually drove it pretty well, but my distance control with my irons into these greens has been pretty diabolical", Dawson said after mixing one birdie with five bogeys and four double-bogeys.

'The course here is in spectacular shape with very little rough, much like Augusta! It just shows you, stay patient and things can happen.

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Fleetwood and Bradley lead South Korea's Byeong Hun An and American Brian Harman (66) by one, while four-time major victor Rory McIlroy is five under courtesy of a 67.

But Baddeley rejects the idea golf's championship window lays the foundation for the Players to join golf's four existing majors: the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open and the British Open. He missed a scheduled tournament for the first time since returning past year from spinal fusion surgery, and said it was more to make sure a growing problem that started last month in Los Angeles did not get worse.

Fleetwood finished seventh at Sawgrass previous year and third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, when Molinari stormed through the field with a closing 64 to win his second PGA Tour title.

Fleetwood started from the 10th and managed just one birdie in his first nine holes, but then picked up shots on the first, second and fifth and finished with a hat-trick of birdies from the seventh.

He was in a greenside bunker in two shots, but took two attempts to get out of the sand, and three more to hole out.

Tiger Woods was equal 35th after an entertaining 70 that included six birdies and four bogeys.

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