Johnson enjoys best ever Players round

Jordan Spieth could return to the No 1 spot with a top-two finish at Sawgrass

Tiger Woods return to TPC Sawgrass was capped in holing a 20-footer for birdie at the ninth but he undid a solid display in finding the water off the tee at the last on route to closing bogey and a level par 72. He settled for a T10 by week's end and now he's right back in the mix this week here in Ponte Vedra Beach. May. Thomas opened with a one-over 73, Spieth a three-over 75 and Rose and Rahm four-under 68s. Justin Thomas is tied for 86th at 1 over while Rickie Fowler, the 2015 Players champion, is tied for 95th at 2 over.

The best golf - and there was plenty of it on an ideal opening round for scoring - was all around them.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson also were at 66 among the early starters Thursday. Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley and Patrick Cantlay joined them late.

Rory McIlroy finished on one-under par for his opening round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

"Obviously, you see some guys shooting 6-under par or so and know it was out there, " McIlroy said.

That's been the story of the TPC Sawgrass over the years - a design that doesn't favor one particular style of play.

Phil Mickelson can probably start revving up his private jet for an early trip home after scoring 79, having dropped seven shots in a four-hole stretch from the 14th.

"Toward the back nine, it started getting a little sparse", Woods said. I don't think I've putted very well around here as a whole.

There was plenty of excitement elsewhere.

The World Golf Ranking is a nice conversation piece between Sundays, though Dustin Johnson seemingly would rather others discuss it among themselves. And he putted like he was fed up with not seeing enough go in. "The greens were receptive, they're rolling flawless". He liked the results. But with the winds calm and ideal scoring conditions in the morning, Johnson opened the tournament on the back nine and rolled in five birdies to make the turn at 5-under 31. Johnson only gave himself a few reasonable chances the rest of the way, though he was more than happy with his 66.

It was just his fourth round in the 60s in 31 trips around the Stadium Course and his best score by two shots.

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'I wasn't too sharp with the irons but was still on the green and rolled the putter pretty well'.

"With the game where it is right now, there's a lot of really good players right at the top of the world rankings, so for me to stay up there, I'm going to have to play really well". So it definitely works.

"You've got four par-5s - given the right wind, even I can get to all four of them".

Rookies and veterans alike were in the group at 67.

Also at 67 was Keith Mitchell, who only got into the tournament Wednesday when Paul Casey had to withdraw with an injury. All that ruined his day was a double bogey at the par-3 third hole, his 12th of the day.

The 33-year-old has never finished in the top 10 at the PGA Tour's flagship event, yet he took advantage of the flawless morning conditions to go bogey free.

"I don't want to say it was a surprise, because I've been playing well lately, " Mitchell said. "I was playing better than that". Two weeks in a row for me, last week Quail Hollow was flawless for me, as well. Back on putting surfaces he knows, Woods made a number of key putts.

"I've struggled on the greens here". Woods hit only five fairways. And Fowler hit his tee shot at 17 into the water, made double-bogey and shot a two-over par 74.

The feature group in the morning wasn't much better.

"It could have been better".



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