PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On a day full of low scores perhaps it’s no surprise that the world’s number one player Jason Day grabbed the first round lead at The Player, tying the course record at nine-under 63.
“The temperature was hot, so the ball was going a long way, and when the ball goes a long way, you're coming in with shorter clubs if you hit the fairways,” he explained right after his round.
Day was so dominant in the opening round that he had a birdie putt on every hole and didn’t have a par putt longer than two feet. (By the way if you play golf, read that sentence again.)
“I can't really recall the way that I hit the ball as well as I did today and then also putting as well as I did,” he said matter-of-factly.
In the run-up to this year’s tournament a lot of players thought the golf course was softer than in the past and would be receptive to low scores. Day agreed that he believed something significantly under par would lead after the first round.
“We thought the greens were sticking and a lot of guys could attack the pins that we had out there,” he added. “But shooting 63 was great today and there's a lot of guys at 7-under par right now and a lot of guys that are going off the afternoon tee time that can definitely shoot that score as well.”
That might be the case, but birdies popped up for Day at some critical times, including on 17. The island green hole was playing 124 yards and Day said he was trying to hit it 130 but hit it “a little bit less.”
“And you still get nervous over that shot. Doesn't matter if you're hitting a pitching wedge or you're hitting a sand wedge or lob wedge, it's still tough to try and hit that shot.”
Although he played the back nine first, the reigning PGA Champion said it’s still exciting, coming to the finishing holes at the Stadium Course.
“Especially when you're coming, playing that back side,” he added. “You come into 16, you start to walk to 16 and you start hearing the crowd, you start getting a little bit nervous on trying to hit that tee shot. But good to get a birdie there.”
Starting his round on the 10th hole, Day birdieing the first three and number seven to make the turn at -4. He birdied one and two, number four and seven to get within one of the course record held by four other players with two holes to play.
His second shot on the par-5 ninth found a greenside bunker but out of the sand Day hit it to 18 inches for a tap-in and a 63. Pretty good for a guy who shot 81 in the second round of THE PLAYERS last year, his last round on the Stadium Course.
“I was really displeased with how I played last year, considering I was coming into that week feeling pretty good about my game and I just didn't really play great in the second round.”
With his current mindset and the confidence he has, the first round leader could put Greg Norman’s tournament record of 24-under in jeopardy.
“I've shot scores lower, but I think from tee to green and then on the green and then being patient and everything kind of just clicked today and I shot a good score.”