Garcia rediscovers old touch to be in hunt at Players

Holmes hit his tee shot so far to the right on the 14th hole that it went into the water on the 12th hole. “It’s probably one of the hardest 125- or 140-yard shots that we get all year”.

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari of Italy head a list of 11 players who shot 69 and are two strokes off the lead.

The TPC Sawgrass has trouble at every turn even in calm conditions. Even with a mild wind in the afternoon, just over a third of the field broke par.

And there was plenty of that. Garcia has rebounded from that slow beginning and has shot 9 under in his last 45 holes. Phil Mickelson shot a 78.

Garcia made bogey. Then he left a bunker shot in the trap on No. 4. Course officials may have to figure out a way to make going for the green off the tee more enticing. That includes Ian Poulter, who only got into this tournament two weeks ago because of a clerical oversight and had the only bogey-free round.

And this was after Willett had also found the water at 17 a day earlier in taking a bogey.

“I’ve already limited the schedule down a lot, obviously all of the travelling we’ve been doing, and everything that’s been going on”, he said.

Rahm is looking to become just the third player to win the Players in his first try, joining Hal Sutton (1983) and Craig Perks (2002). “It’s a big deal to be able to concentrate on just playing golf and it makes a huge difference”. (Alex Rodriguez struck out in the ninth inning of that game.) The two teams are so different now, but they’re also among the best teams in the game over the first month and a half.

They will be chasing a total purse of $10.5 million, of which $1.89 million goes to the victor along with 600 FedExCup points.

“[That camera operator is] capturing tight face shots as [the players] prepare to hit the shot and then the tight face shots as part of their reaction, whether the ball lands on land or splashes down”, Roy explains. He bounced back with a birdie on the island-green 17th and shot 68 to finish two shots out of the lead.

Poulter, whose last victory was at the 2012 World Golf Championships event in China, looked to lose his USA tour playing rights before a recalculation of points earned on a medical exemption showed the 41-year-old Englishman had done enough to keep his card. That came right after he bogeyed the par-five 16th hole, and Kim’s power of recovery should give him an excellent opportunity to stand up to the pressure in Sunday’s final round. In the interim, there was a media tour, a trip to Rory McIlroy’s wedding in Ireland, and an opening kick-off at the Real Madrid-Barcelona match.

Day and Scott are both at two-under par, both Queenslanders having carded identical 70-72 scorelines on the opening two days on a tough layout. “It doesn’t matter what you hit off the tee”. The eagles were at No. 11 and No. 16, and it was the first time in tournament history that one player accomplished that feat in the first round.

The cut was at 2-over 146, and there will be another cut Saturday because more than 78 players advanced to the weekend.

Phil Mickelson hits on the 10th green during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday