Mackenzie Hughes and William McGirt fired identical 67s to take the co-lead after the first round of The Players Championship as Sergio Garcia aced No. 17 in his first event since winning the Masters.
Alex Noren, of Sweden, Spain’s Jon Rahm, J.B. Holmes and Chez Reavie shot four-under 68s and are one stroke back at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
“Very pleased. One of those days where I kept out of trouble,” said Hughes, of Canada. “When I missed the greens I did it in the right spots and when I needed a par I was able to do it.”
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.
American Phil Mickelson, defending champion Jason Day of Australia, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott of Australia are among those who shot 70 and are three strokes behind. Day, however, made three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a two-under score.
World number one Dustin Johnson tops a large group at 71 that also includes German Bernhard Langer, who at 59 is the oldest player in the tournament.
“My day is kind of summed up on the first hole when I one-hopped it into the flag and it came off the green and I made bogey,” Johnson said.
“That’s just kind of how my day went. I could never really get any momentum. I hit some good shots then I would lip-out the putt.”
Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Garcia all shot 73.
Garcia’s round was highlighted by a hole in one on the island hole No. 17. Garcia is the second to achieve the feat in as many years following Willy Wilcox’s previous ace on the par-three.
Garcia said it was nice to post an ace after getting off to a rocky beginning. He is just the eighth player to make a hole in one in Players Championship history.
“The feeling was great,” said Garcia, who won the Masters last month. “I hit a good shot, but it can go there, it can go three yards past. I don’t know, it can do anything.
“It was nice to see it bounce and kind of spin back into the hole. Maybe because I needed it after the start I had.
“I think I wasn’t quite in the tournament because of everything that’s been going on after the Masters win and media and people congratulating you left, right and centre.
“I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was four over after six.”
McGirt had three birdies on the front nine and eagled both of the par-fives on the back nine to offset two bogeys.
This is the fifth time McGirt has held the lead or a share of the lead after 18 holes, but he has yet to convert an opening round lead into a victory.
Hughes had a solid round of five birdies and no bogeys. He is also a one-time winner, capturing the 2017 RSM Classic in October.
David Toms (back) and Kevin Na (illness) withdrew from the tournament during Thursday’s round.