Just one week before he will defend his 2013 win at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Sang-Moon Bae turned in a 6-under 66 to sit solo third and three strokes behind Martin Kaymer.
Bae is playing in The Players Championship for the third time (MC-2012, T33-2013), with his only other rounds in the 60s also coming in the first round (68s in 2012 and 2013).
Bae is making his 15th start of the season, with nine made cuts and a T12 at the Northern Trust Open his best finish.
Making his 15th start at The Players Championship, 2008 champion Sergio Garcia opened with a 5-under 67. His best opening round at this event is 66 (2005, 2008) and his career-low round is a second-round 65 in 2013.
Garcia owns the longest active cuts made streak at The Players with 10 in a row, dating to a T53 finish in 2004.
In 14 previous starts at The Players, Garcia has a victory (2008) and three additional top-10 finishes in 2002 (T4), 2007 (2) and 2013 (T8).
Garcia is seeking to become the seventh player to win THE PLAYERS more than once—Jack Nicklaus (3), Fred Couples (2), Davis Love III (2), Hal Sutton (2), Steve Elkington (2) and Tiger Woods (2).
2013 PGA TourRookie of the Year Jordan Spieth posted a 5-under 67 in his first start at The Players Championship. Other than Jack Nicklaus, who won THE PLAYERS in its inaugural year in 1974, only Hal Sutton (1983) and Craig Perks (2002) have won the event in their first appearance.
First-time Players participants Spieth and Morgan Hoffmann (71) both played the Junior Players Championship (one of the American Junior Golf Association’s premier events) during their junior golf careers. Spieth finished tied for second in 2010 while Hoffmann won the inaugural Junior PlayersChampionship in 2007.
Rory McIlroy opened with a 2-under 70. In five appearances at The Players Championship, his only score (11 rounds) in the 60s was an opening-round 6-under 66 in 2013.
Two of McIlroy’s last three PGA Tour victories came at Pete Dye-designed golf courses – the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, and the 2012 BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club. He also won the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship during that stretch.
With his T8 at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy now has five top 10s in seven starts this season.
Additional player notes
Lee Westwood failed to break par in the opening round of his first five starts at The Players Championship, but has since broken par in six of his last seven, including a 5-under 67 Thursday. Westwood owns four top-10 finishes at The Players (T5-1998, T6-1999, T4-2010, T8-2013).
Playing in his second PlayersChampionship and having missed the cut in his 2013 debut, Gonzalo Ferna dez-Castano posted a 5-under-par 67 with seven birdies and two bogeys.
Also playing in The PlayersS (missed cut in 2013 with rounds of 73-74) for the second time, Brian Stuard posted a 5-under 67 in the first round. In his most recent start, Stuard missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship. He is in search of his fifth top-10 finish of the season (2nd-OHL Classic at Mayakoba, 5-Humana Challenge, T5-RBC Heritage, 6-Sony Open in Hawaii).