players championship day one

Rules, Rory and Ryan Fox: Everything from The Players Championship day one

Rules rage, a hole-in-one and an absolutely stacked leaderboard. What wasn’t to like about the first round of The 50th Players? NCG’s Matt Chivers can fill you in on Thursday’s events…


Rules dispute – Tick. Birdies and eagles galore – Tick. A hole-in-one – Tick. An almighty club throw – Tick.

The first round of The 2024 Players Championship was a memorable one for several reasons. The stars were out, the scores were low and there’s plenty more to come on Friday.

Without further delay, here is what happened during the first round of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

So what happened?

Starting on the 10th hole at 8.35 am, McIlroy scorched the front nine with six birdies. Despite finding the water on both 7 and 18 (which we come to further down in this report), the 2019 Players champion added another four birdies to finish with a seven-under-par 65.

This score, his lowest-ever opening round at The Players, set the early pace in Ponte Vedra. Xander Schauffele matched McIlroy’s score except the American finished the sunny day in Florida bogey-free. The ever-consistent Schauffele is in contention again to win his eighth PGA Tour title.

World No.10 Ludvig Aberg might’ve only made two birdies on Thursday, but he subsidised these with two eagles on holes 2 and 16 to reach five-under-par. The young Swede, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2023, is also making his first start at The 50th Players Championship this week.

Jason Day matched Aberg and sat between this pair and the leader was Canadian Nick Taylor on 6-under-par in the early stages. After winning the RBC Canadian Open last year, Taylor began his 2024 campaign in fine style by winning the WM Phoenix Open last month.

With the pin at the front of the 17th hole and with so many players possessing the innate ability to rip their tee shots back towards the cup, a hole-in-one was always on the cards and it came courtesy of Ryan Fox. The big hitter from New Zealand went on to card three-under-par after becoming the 14th person to ace this famous island green.

Amongst all of the low scores and penalty drops was an epic club through from Canadian Adam Hadwin who dashed one of his irons into the middle of the lake on the 18th hole. It was quite sensational.

Later in the day, reigning US Open champion and recent AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner Wyndham Clark joined McIlroy and Schauffele on seven-under-par with eight birdies of his own.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler is certainly in touch with a five-under-par 67 of his own, while Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick is one better with Taylor on six-under-par.

Biggest talking point?

There are no prizes for guessing which was the biggest talking point of the day at The Players. It involved McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland debating whether McIlroy’s ball had landed above or below the red hazard line before finishing in the water to the left of the 7th fairway.

This would determine where McIlroy would take penalty area relief, with different spots touted as being 250 yards apart.

McIlroy argued that his ball did land above the line in which case he could take a drop between the lake and the bunker. With 225 yards left to the pin, the Northern Irishman went on to make a double-bogey six.

In a clip posted by the PGA Tour, the conversation between McIlroy, Spieth and Hovland was caught in which Spieth told McIlroy:

“They’re saying on their eyes, they didn’t see it on camera. They’re saying what they saw, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s what you guys think

“They’re going to the media, the media people, back on the tee were certain. That’s why I thought we should check so you don’t take the wrong drop.

“I think we all agree it crossed on some land, it’s just a matter of where the drop is.”

McIlroy also found the water off the tee on the 18th hole but when speaking to reporters after the round, the 34-year-old said he was “comfortable” with the way each drop was taken.

NCG’s rules expert Steve Carroll explains the entire situation in further detail here.

What did they say about their play?

Rory McIlroy

“I’m not sure how the strokes gained approach stats look, but it’s probably been one of my best days in a while, which is really nice.

“The feeling is good with the irons, and the feeling with the driver and the 3-wood is just a little bit different, but as long as I remind myself on the tee box that okay, this is a wood, and I get on the fairway, and this is an iron, and I’ve got two different feels and two different thoughts, then it’s okay. Yeah, much, much improved on the approach play today, which was nice to see.”

Xander Schauffele

“I mean, I wouldn’t want to re-hit a few of those shots today, I can tell you that much. I definitely need to clean it up.

“It just seems to be the case out here. 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.”

Ludvig Aberg

I felt like I was quite in control, to be honest. I felt like I was striking the ball quite well. Never really put myself in danger of losing too many strokes. I made a pretty dumb three-putt on 7 for bogey, and that was my only bogey today.

“I felt like I didn’t do anything that would put me in danger of getting a lot higher score, but obviously super pleased with it.”

Ryan Fox

“It’s such an iconic hole, and it’s an intimidating shot. I don’t care who you are. You get up there, most of the crowd probably either wants you to make a 1 or hit it in the water, so I’m glad to be on the right side of it in that respect.

“When we got to the tee, it was kind of a good number for me. It was a nice gap wedge and you know you’ve got a little bit of a backstop there, and I was pretty chuffed to look up and see it going down the flag, and obviously a little bit of luck for it to come down the slope and go back in, but I’m certainly not complaining.

“When it landed and came back, I was like, this has got a chance. I mean, we had enough good shots that a few have a chance every now and again, but they don’t go in very often, so it was nice to see one properly go in, and as I said, it’s such an iconic hole, and to have that many people there to witness it is pretty cool.

Scottie Scheffler

“It felt fairly stress-free. I had the really good par there on 18. Outside of the start, I played a lot of really good golf. It’s nice to only have one bogey around this place and hopefully continue to do more of that in the next few days.

“I knew the scores were going to be fairly low today. The golf course is pretty soft, and we had unusually low winds, I’d say, for TPC Sawgrass, and the scores obviously reflected that. You can’t really force it around this place like I’ve said a bunch of times, you really can’t. It was nice bouncing back after the rough start and just playing a really good round of golf.”

Shot of the day

Ryan Fox raised the roof on the 17th hole in the morning of the first round. The man from New Zealand became the latest star to etch his name into the history of the island green with a hole-in-one.

ALSO: Round two tee times at The Players Championship

The award for nicest touch went to…

None other than the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus. The 18-time major champion and three-time Players champion was on-site to greet Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

Altogether, this quartet share six Players Championship titles and for golf fans too, it will never become a chore seeing Nicklaus in such high spirits and present on the PGA Tour.

players championship day one

Stat of the day

With thanks to the stats king that is Justin Ray, Fox also features in our next segment as his ace on hole 17 was special for more than one reason…

Brutal moment of the day…

Shock – the most brutal moment of the day came on hole 17 and the vote goes to Sam Ryder who almost replicated Fox’s heroics from the morning wave of groups.

Instead, the American’s ball screwed inches by the hole and didn’t stop. It careered into the water and the PGA Tour’s most famous water hazard had claimed another victim.

NOW READ: Rory McIlroy fights Jay Monahan’s corner: ‘We all need to move on’

NOW READ: Tommy Fleetwood: Missing LIV Golfers take nothing away from The Players

Could we see another Rory McIlroy Players Championship victory? Or will someone else win? Tell NCG on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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