Matsuyama leads first round of The Players


PONTE VEDRA, Fla. – Players during the first round of the 2015 Players Championship were greeted Thursday morning with somewhat benign conditions at the Stadium Course.

"It got quite tricky out there," said world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who shot three under 69 on Thursday.

"Anything in the 60s or actually anything under par is a good score to start here."

"I'm off to a good solid start and in a good position but also not too satisfied," Rickie Fowler said.

Fowler had it to six under through 12 holes, but finished with a 69 after a double bogey on 3 and a bogey on 9 to finish his round.

"I don't think you really look ahead too much on this golf course. There's nothing really to look forward to as far as thinking that you're going to be able to go attack and get after it," Fowler said.

Coming off of back surgery, Steve Stricker also shot three under 69 in his opening round. Five birdies and two bogeys put him two off the lead after not hitting it well.

"I had two or three putts on the back side that I didn't make, but just played pretty smart all the way around and kept it out of trouble," Stricker said immediately after finishing.

Stricker said he felt a little rusty and thinks that experience plays a big factor here. "I think (you've) got to step up and hit some shots when it calls for it, and then there's times where you just have to back off, too, and say, you know what, that's not a very smart play," he said.

Among the morning players, Jordan Spieth had a huge crowd following his group, partially because he comes here as the Masters champion and partially because McElroy and Jason Day were his playing partners.

Spieth shot three over par 75, saying he never got anything going.

"(It was a) really tough ball striking day. (I) just couldn't find anything, really, since I've gotten here on Monday," Spieth said.

Spieth said he's been working on his alignment but just has to keep working on it. "It's nothing major, it's just a level of trust out there," he said. "It's not an easy course, and when there's a lot of water in play, it's difficult to trust. You've got to really be on your game."

As of now, everybody's chasing Hideki Matsuyama after his opening 67, which included a birdie on his final hole, number 9.

"I putted very well today. That was the difference," Matsuyama said through an interpreter. He confirmed that you have to know when to go for it and when to play safe on the Stadium.

"You're right, especially if you don't hit the fairway with your tee shot. (You've) just got to put it on the green somewhere and hope to make par," Matsuyama said.