Today at the Players: Ace Sergio saves the day

Golf News

From the best shots to a betting update, NCG runs down everything you need to know from day one at Sawgrass...

Who doesn’t like the Players Championship? That course! That island green! It should be the fifth major! Well, no, it shouldn’t – but it’s still a great tournament and one we all look forward to here at NCG Towers.

Alex Perry, James Broadhurst and Steve Carroll round-up the best of day one at TPC Sawgrass…

So what happened?

It was all going so well for Adam Scott. His fifth and sixth birdies of the day, at 14 and 15, gave the 2004 champion the outright lead.

But then disaster struck at 17. Having just seen playing partner Sergio Garcia hit a hole-in-one – more on that later – Scott found the water and carded a double. He then inexplicably found the drink at 18, which led to two more shots dropped. From leading at six-under to back in the group at two-under in a matter of minutes.

Also at two-under are the previous two winners of this this tournament, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. Playing in the same group and starting at 10, both enjoyed a handful of birdies each on the way out, but coming home was a different story. Defending champion Day dropped shots at six, eight and nine – his 15th, 17th and 18th holes of the day – to drop back to 2-under, where he was joined by Fowler, after a bogey at four and double at six hurt the American’s chances.

One behind is Dustin Johnson, who carded an eagle, two birdies and two bogeys en route to a clumsy 71.

And so it’s American William McGirt and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes who lead after round one at five-under-par, one clear of JB Holmes, Alex Noren, Chez Reavie and exciting rookie Jon Rahm.

Don’t bet against a shock winner at Sawgrass. Steve Elkington anyone? Or Craig Perks?

A good day for…

…Masters champion Garcia.

Well, the last few holes anyway. The Spaniard was looking in trouble in his first competitive round since slipping on the Green Jacket, but this was not vintage Sergio, who slapped it around Sawgrass like a man who had clearly done more chat show interviews than hit balls in the past few weeks.

But then a birdie at 16 was followed by a hole-in-one – more on that later, honest! – at the iconic 17th and a par down the last.

Garcia, winner here nine years ago, is six back of the lead and with all the momentum in his bid to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 to win the Masters and the Players in the same year.

And because we spent time researching that – here’s the rundown of how Masters champions have done at the Players a few weeks later since Tiger’s double…

2002: Tiger Woods – T14
2003: Mike Weir – T27
2004: Phil Mickelson – T3
2005: Tiger Woods – T53
2006: Phil Mickelson – T14
2007: Zach Johnson – T16
2008: Trevor Immelman – WD
2009: Angel Cabrera – T14
2010: Phil Mickelson – T17
2011: Charl Schwartzel – T26
2012: Bubba Watson – DNP
2013: Adam Scott – T19
2014: Bubba Watson – T48
2015: Jordan Spieth – MC
2016: Danny Willett – MC
2017: Sergio Garcia – ??

A bad day for…

…Rory McIlroy.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have seen this week that McIlroy joined TaylorMade. With Thursday being his first outing as part of the “TaylorMade family” – their words, not ours – NCG’s equipment editor James Savage took a closer look at how he got on

Shot of the day

Alright, here you go!

Incidentally, we had to wait 14 years for a hole-in-one at 17 between the efforts of Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2002 and Willy Wilcox in 2016. Now we have two in as many years.

Stat of the day

Well, week.

The winner of this year’s Players will be handed a cheque for $1,890,000 – a fraction more than Arnold Palmer’s entire PGA Tour career earnings of $1,861,857.

Yeah yeah, that’s like seven or eight million in today’s money, but it’s still interesting.

Social Spotlight

Twitter is always fun during a big golf tournament, so here’s a quick round-up of our favourite tweets from day one of the Players.

Robert Garrigus didn’t find the hole at 17 like Garcia, but he did have as much fortune…

It’s not often you see a player hit the cup. But did Darren Andrew Points’ effort stay in the hole?

Of course it didn’t. This is golf. And golf is cruel.

Speaking of which…

Sticking with DJ…

You can make your own mind up.

Elsewhere, Jordan Spieth made a double bogey on the first hole and blamed it on a poorly raked bunker. He whipped out his phone and took a picture so he could provide the evidence to the PGA Tour staff. But if you are going to moan about the state of bunkers then you had better be prepared for a social media backlash…

The redesigned par-4 12th seems to have gone down very well with both the players and viewers during the opening round…

Someone get a petition going…

 

 

Betting tips

With oddsmakers already zeroing in on DJ and Rahm, there are a couple of bigger priced players who had eye-catching opening days at Sawgrass.

Francesco Molinari, at 33/1, is surely overpriced sitting at three under par. The Italian missed three cuts in a row at Ponte Vedra from 2011 to 2013 after finishing ninth on his first appearance. But he’s been absolutely mustard since – racking up displays of sixth and seventh and not shooting an over par effort in his previous nine rounds at the Stadium Course. With those stats, an opening 69 should have proved no surprise and, with some bookmakers still paying 1/5 of the odds for the first six finishers, he’s definitely worth a punt each way.

And we can’t help but spare a thought for Lee Westwood at 66/1. Having not played since the Masters, an opening 70, on a track where he’s finished fourth, eighth and sixth in three of his last five visits, surely makes him a viable each way shout? It can all go wrong at any minute with Lee, but he did look solid on day one. Prepare to throw more money away.

More from NCG at the Players...

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