Hughes shares lead at Players Championship
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. — Canadian rookie and Dundas’ Mackenzie Hughes played bogey-free in his debut at The Players Championship golf tournament and shot 5under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt after an opening round that showed anew that the TPC Sawgrass has surprises around every corner.
No one knows better than Adam Scott, the 2004 champion who had a one-shot lead going into par-3 17th hole. First, he watched Masters champion Sergio Garcia salvage his poor round by making a hole-inone 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 a 70. “It happens.”
At least he had company. Dustin Johnson’s first wedge of the way hit the pin, caromed off the green and led to bogey. On a day when nothing seemed to go his way, the world’s No. 1 player opened with a 71. Rory McIlroy went to tap in from 2 feet and missed it, and then had to make one twice that long for his double bogey on the 10th hole. He shot 73.
Through it all, Hughes was rock solid. Only twice did he have par putts longer than 3 feet, and he made them both. The Players Stadium Course must be some kind of easy, eh? Hughes laughed and shook his head. “No. It’s very hard.”
McGirt played in morning and made a pair of eagles on the back nine to atone in his round of 67.
Among those at 68 was Jon Rahm, another first-timer at this lucrative event who had one of four bogey-free rounds on the steamy day in north Florida. Even with a mild wind in the afternoon, just over one-third of the field broke par.
Fast starts and bad finishes were the norm, and not just for Scott.
Defending champion Jason Day ran off two straight birdies after making the turn and was in the lead at 5 under, which for the former world No. 1 was a peculiar position. He hasn’t won since The Players last year. Day, however, made three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a 70.
He was playing in the same group as Rickie Fowler, the 2015 champion who also got off to a fast start until one bad shot — a really bad shot — on his 15th hole at the par-4 seventh. From the middle of the fairway, Fowler blocked it so badly to the right that it hit a cart path and went deep into the pines. It took him two shots to get out and he made double bogey. Fowler also shot 70.
Garcia’s round was different. He made three bogeys and a double bogey in his opening six holes and went out in 40, the first nine holes of competition he has played since winning the Masters a month ago. He felt nerves on the first tee when he was introduced as the Masters champion.
“The feeling was great,” he said. “I think I wasn’t quite in the tournament because of everything that’s been going on after the Masters win ... I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4 over after six.”
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas hits from the 18th tee Thursday.