Lahiri struggles to 78, McIlroy shoots 79; Garcia leads with 65 on tough first day at Players

Leader Sergio Garcia in full flow (left) and having a chat with 2019 winner, Rory McIlroy. Getty Images

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA, March 12: Anirban Lahiri had an extremely rough opening round, as did many of the big names, in the first round of the Players Championship at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Lahiri, who missed four putts inside seven to 10 feet and did not have much luck on the greens shot 6-over 78 and needed a very low round to make his second cut in five starts at the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

On a day when 35 golf balls found their way into the water at the Island Green on 17th, Lahiri also had a trip into the water. After a drop he hit to 18 feet, missed the putt and holed out for a double bogey.

Sergio Garcia (7-under 65) continued to show how comfortable he is at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Garcia played his par-5s superbly and was 5-under with a pair of eagles and a birdie.

Lahiri starting on 10th, had four bogeys in first six holes and then found his first birdie when he holed in 26 feet on Par-5 16th. A double on the Island green was followed by a bogey on 18th. On his second nine, he was steady with one bogey on Par-4 fifth and birdied Par-5 ninth.

Garcia rounded off a 7-under 65 with an 18-foot eagle at the last to give him a two-shot lead over Brian Harman (67). Garcia started on the back nine and went birdie-birdie-eagle over his final three holes for a closing 32.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, Corey Conners and 2019 Open winner, Shane Lowry were Tied-3rd at 68 while the ageless Lee Westwood, who was runner-up last week, was Tied-6th with five others including Bryson DeChambeau at 69.

Garcia has not missed a cut in nearly 20 years here and won in 2008, besides being solo second in 2007 and T2 in 2015 at the Peter Dye course. He came in with 24 career rounds in the 60s and this was his 25th.

Reigning champion Rory McIlroy, who won the last edition of this event in 2019, also struggled on his way to a first-round 79. He started with a double bogey at the first and then the 2019 FedExCup champion followed with bogey at the 13th before the wheels came off with a quadruple bogey at the par-4 18th, where McIlroy twice found the water to the left.

Apart from McIlroy, other big names suffering were past champion Henrik Stenson posted (13-over 85), Tony Finau, ranked No. 7 in the FedExCup standings, opened with a 6-over 78.

From an Asian viewpoint, three Koreans opened at even-par, headlined by 2017 PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim, also the recent winner of The American Express. Sungjae Im and K H Lee were the other two.

Korean Byeong Hun An was just 1-over entering his final two holes before coming undone at the island green, where he hit four balls into the water en route to an 11. It matched the second-highest score on the 17th hole since 1983. He finished with 83.

Hideki Matsuyama, who opened with a 63 before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the remainder of the 2020 tournament made the turn at 1-under after starting on 10th butt finished with 76.

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