The Players: First round news and notes

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First-round leaderboard

Martin Kaymer, a 29-year-old native of Dusseldorf, Germany, posted a bogey-free 9-under 63 to tie the low 18-hole score at The Players Championship (Fred Couples/1992/R3, Greg Norman/1994/R1, Roberto Castro/2013/R1).

Kaymer's career-low round is a 10-under 62, set earlier this season at the 2013 HSBC Champions (finished T8). His previous-best score at THE PLAYERS was an opening-round 67 in 2011.

Kaymer carded a 7-under 29 on the front nine (his final nine holes after beginning the round on No. 10) to establish a new nine-hole scoring record at THE PLAYERS Championship. His 29 on Nos. 1-9 included birdies on Nos. 1-2-4-6-7-8-9.

Previously, eight players owned 30s on the front nine (most recently Nick Watney during the first round in 2011) and 16 players on the back nine (most recently Russell Henley and Geoff Ogilvy during today's first round)

Kaymer is making his sixth start at THE PLAYERS, with a T15 in 2012 and T19 in 2011 his best outings. He has never missed a cut at the event, with a T55 in his inaugural appearance in 2009 his worst showing.

Kaymer's first-round statistics:

  • Driving Distance: 283.5 yards
  • Fairways in Regulation: 12 of 14 (85.7 percent)
  • Greens in Regulation: 17 of 18 (94.4 percent)
  • Putts: 27
  • Putting Average (GIR): 1.529
  • Making his 74th PGA TOUR start, Kaymer is in search of his second TOUR win (2010 PGA Championship).
  • Kaymer is making his 10th start of the season, with seven made cuts and a season-best T8 at the HSBC Champions.
  • This marks the first time Kaymer has held the first-round lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour. His previous best standing after round one was third place at the 2011 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, which was set up by a 6-under 66 (which was his previous-best opening round in a PGA Tour event).

International players have won seven of the last 12 Players Championships. A total of 12 international players have won The Players in the 40-year history of the event, including three Europeans (Sandy Lyle/1987, Sergio Garcia/2008, Henrik Stenson/2009).

First-round statistics

The first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win THE PLAYERS 12 times since the tournament began in 1974, most recently Sergio Garcia in 2008. There have been four wire-to-wire winners: Al Geiberger (1975), Greg Norman (1994), Steve Elkington (1997) and Hal Sutton (2000).

Of 32 winners since the event moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982, only 10 have carded a first-round score of 70 or higher and gone on to win, with the most recent being K.J. Choi in 2011 with a 70.

The first-round leader/co-leader has won four of 24 times this season, most recently Matt Kuchar at the RBC Heritage.

Russell Henley

Henley's back-nine 6-under 30, which included six birdies on Nos. 10-11-12-15-16-17, tied the back-nine scoring record for the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Henley's 30 matched 15 other players, most recently Luke Donald in the final round in 2012 (Geoff Ogilvy also performed the feat Thursday).

Henley's back-nine 30 included just one made putt over 15 feet (No. 13 – 16 feet, 2 inches).

The two-time winner Henley, 24, is one of three players currently under the age of 25 with multiple PGA TOUR wins, along with Harris English (2) and Patrick Reed (3). Henley won the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii in his PGA TOUR member debut and The Honda Classic in early March in a four-way playoff.

Henley won the Tour's event at TPC Sawgrass in 2012, contested on Dye's Valley course.

Henley's first-round statistics:

  • Driving Distance: 277.0 yards
  • Fairways in Regulation: 11 of 14 (78.5 percent)
  • Greens in Regulation: 13 of 18 (72.2 percent)
  • Putts: 26
  • Putting Average (GIR): 1.462
  • Henley was recently voted the PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis for the month of March.
  • Henley is making his 17th start of the season, with his win at The Honda Classic and T7 finish at the Shell Houston Open representing his two top-10 finishes.

Sang-Moon Bae

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.

Sergio Garcia

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).

Jordan Spieth

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

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).

Gary Woodland missed the cut in his first two starts at The Players Championship, recording rounds of 75-71 in 2011 and 77-73 in 2012. He's off to a better start this year, opening with a 5-under 67.

Geoff Ogilvy matched the back-nine record at The Players Championship with a 6-under 30. After opening his round at 4-over through five holes, he finished the day with a 3-under 69. In 13 starts at The Players, it marks his first opening-round in the 60s and just the fourth sub-70 score in 34 rounds.

In 11 appearances at The Players, Thursday's 5-under 67 for Justin Rose marked his first sub-70 opening round. A T22 in 2009 marks his best finish out of five made cuts at the event.

Ernie Els had an eagle on the par-4 fourth hole, holing out a 53 degree wedge from 105 yards. His 68 Thursday ties his best opening-round score in 21 starts at The Players Championship (1997, 2004).

Making his 20th career start at The Players, 1998 champion Justin Leonard posted an opening round in the 60s for just the second time (65 in 1996, 68 in 2014). He started his day with an eagle-2 from 147 yards on No. 1.

Bubba Watson, currently second in the FedExCup standings, turned in an opening-round 3-under 69 in his first start since winning the Masters. Watson is seeking to become the eight player with a victory at both The Players and the Masters Tournament. The others are Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Sandy Lyle, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.

Matt Kuchar's 1-under 71 included a double bogey on the par-4 18th hole. He is now 7-over in his last five rounds on that hole.

Phil Mickelson opened with a 3-over 75, marking his highest opening score at the event since an 83 in 2000. It equals his fourth-highest opening round in 21 starts here (83-2000, 78-1995, 77-1997). Since capturing The Players in 2007, Mickelson has not posted a top-10 finish at TPC Sawgrass.

FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker posted an opening-round 3-over 75 in his fifth start at THE PLAYERS (2010-T26, 2011-MC, 2012-T35, 2013-T15).

Adam Scott opened his 13th Players Championship with a 5-over 77, equaling his highest opening-round score of the event (set in his first start in 2002). Scott has won The Players (2004), a World Golf Championships event (Bridgestone Invitational), a major championship and the Tour Championship; only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson can also make that claim.

Past champions

Eight players who have won The Players are participating this week. Here's a look at their first-round results:

  • Player, year won, Round 1 score
  • Sergio Garcia, 2008, 67
  • Justin Leonard, 1998, 68
  • Tim Clark, 2010, 71
  • Matt Kuchar, 2012, 71
  • Henrik Stenson, 2009, 71
  • K.J. Choi, 2011, 74
  • Phil Mickelson, 2007, 75
  • Adam Scott, 2004, 77

Rookies at The Players

Chesson Hadley, the lone PGA TOUR rookie in the field, posted a 1-over 73 Thursday.

Best finishes by a PGA Tour rookie at The Players: David Lingmerth (T2 in 2013), Fulton Allem (T3 in 1988), Camilo Villegas (T3 in 2006) and Jeff Quinney (T6 in 2007).

First-timer leaderboard and notes

  • Jordan Spieth, 67
  • Joost Luiten, 68
  • Stephen Gallacher, 70
  • Hideki Matsuyama, 70
  • Morgan Hoffmann, 71
  • Steven Bowditch, 72
  • Russell Knox, 72
  • Chesson Hadley, 73
  • Justin Hicks, 73
  • John Peterson, 73
  • Jamie Donaldson, 74
  • Patrick Reed, 74
  • Michael Putnam, 75
  • Shawn Stefani, 75
  • D.H. Lee, 78

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.
Miscellaneous Notes

Since moving to The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, 18 of the 32 winners played the week before with the other 14 (most recently Tiger Woods in 2013, Matt Kuchar in 2012, K.J. Choi in 2011 and Tim Clark in 2010) taking the week off prior to the event.

Bogey-free rounds

R1 – Martin Kaymer (63), Jordan Spieth (67), Brian Stuard (67), Lee Westwood (67), Graham DeLaet (69)

No player has gone all four rounds without a bogey at The Players Championship. Greg Norman came the closest in 1994 with a single bogey in the final round on No. 13.

There were 12 balls in the water at the par-3 17th hole Thursday, including two by Bryce Molder. Here's a list of balls in the water on the famed hole since 2003:

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