As predicted, low scores were the rule of the day among the morning players in the first round of The Players. Russell Henley shot 65, seven under par while, eight players, including Lee Westwood, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are at -5.
“It’s playing a little softer,” Woodland said after his round. “The key out here is to, keep the momentum going, and avoid the big number.” Woodland also changed a bit of his strategy this week as well. “I only hit 4 drivers today. Callaway strengthened my 3-wood and that seems to be working.”
There are a lot of different experiences to be had at the Stadium Course during the tournament. Henley had nine birdies today, but double bogeyed the 7th. No bogies on his card. Lee Westwood didn’t play any holes over par today, making five birdies enroute to his 67. Ernie Els shot 68 with three bogies, an eagle (on 4) and three birdies, the best a chip in on 14.”
“I’m never comfortable here,” Else explained immediately after his round. “I tried to come in on Thursday morning but I had an early tee time,” he joked, adding that he didn’t arrive until Wednesday afternoon. “The tee boxes here all point you to the right. I have to pick my spot. Pete Dye is a genius but he is a sinister man.”
Jordan Spieth’s 67 in the morning included five birdies for his first time seeing the Stadium Course for this tournament. He’s played here before in junior golf and leaned on some of that experience. “I’ve played enough PGA Tour courses to change my thinking to pick my lines and be a little safer,” he said after his round. “It’s the same here. You just have to commit to the shot.”
Scott Stallings was a mid-morning starter and said he “thought” his way to a 67. “You have to pick your shots here the take a big number out of play,” he explained right behind the 18th green. “Every hole is a birdie opportunity but every one is also a double waiting to happen. You try and eliminate that.”
Justin Rose played the par 5’s in one-over today, leading him to think there could be a lower score than his 67 waiting tomorrow. “I’ve been working on a lot of things, hitting it great on the range for a while. I’m hoping it’s all coming together.”
Among the afternoon players, Bill Haas (-4 through 8) John Huh (-3 through 8) and former champion Tim Clark (-3 through 9) are moving up the leaderboard.
Phil Mickelson shot 75 today, Rory McIlroy 70 and Adam Scott is one under through 7.