DUO SWING TO THE FRONT

McGirt, Hughes fire iden­ti­cal 67s to share lead at Play­ers Cham­pi­onship

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MACKEN­ZIE Hughes and Wil­liam McGirt fired iden­ti­cal 67s to take the co-lead af­ter the first round of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship as Ser­gio Gar­cia aced No 17 in his first event since win­ning the Masters.

Alex Noren, of Swe­den, Spain’s Jon Rahm, J.B. Holmes and Chez Reavie shot four-un­der 68s and are one stroke back at the TPC Saw­grass Sta­dium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“Very pleased. One of those days where I kept out of trou­ble,” said Hughes, of Canada. “When I missed the greens I did it in the right spots and when I needed a par I was able to do it.”

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Moli­nari of Italy head a list of 11 play­ers who shot 69 and were two strokes off the lead.

Amer­i­can Phil Mick­el­son, de­fend­ing cham­pion Ja­son Day of Aus­tralia, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott of Aus­tralia were among those who shot 70 and were three strokes be­hind. Day, how­ever, made three bo­geys over his last four holes and had to set­tle for a two-un­der score.

World No 1 Dustin John­son topped a large group at 71 that also in­cluded Ger­man Bern­hard Langer, who at 59 is the old­est player in the tour­na­ment.

“My day is kind of summed up on the first hole when I one­hopped it into the flag and it came off the green and I made bo­gey,” John­son said.

“That’s just kind of how my day went. I could never re­ally get any mo­men­tum. I hit some good shots then I would lip-out the putt.”

Jor­dan Spi­eth, Rory McIl­roy, Justin Thomas, and Gar­cia all shot 73.

Gar­cia’s round was high­lighted by a hole in one on the is­land hole No 17. Gar­cia is the sec­ond to achieve the feat in as many years fol­low­ing Willy Wil­cox’s pre­vi­ous ace on the par-three.

Gar­cia said it was nice to post an ace af­ter get­ting off to a rocky be­gin­ning. He is just the eighth player to make a hole in one in Play­ers Cham­pi­onship his­tory.

“The feel­ing was great,” said Gar­cia, who won the Masters last month. “I hit a good shot, but it can go there, it can go three yards past. I don’t know, it can do any­thing.

“It was nice to see it bounce and kind of spin back into the hole. Maybe be­cause I needed it af­ter the start I had.

“I think I wasn’t quite in the tour­na­ment be­cause of ev­ery­thing that’s been go­ing on af­ter the Masters win and me­dia and peo­ple con­grat­u­lat­ing you left, right and cen­tre.

“I felt like I was a lit­tle bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was four over af­ter six.”

McGirt had three birdies on the front nine and ea­gled both of the par-fives on the back nine to off­set two bo­geys.

This is the fifth time McGirt has held the lead or a share of the lead af­ter 18 holes, but he has yet to con­vert an open­ing round lead into a vic­tory.

Hughes had a solid round of five birdies and no bo­geys. He is also a one-time win­ner, cap­tur­ing the 2017 RSM Clas­sic in Oc­to­ber.

David Toms (back) and Kevin Na (ill­ness) with­drew from the tour­na­ment dur­ing Thurs­day’s round. AFP

Very pleased. One of those days where I kept out of trou­ble. When I missed the greens I did it in the right spots and when I needed a par I was able to do it.

MACKEN­ZIE HUGHES

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