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Canadian rookie tied atop Players


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—Mackenzie Hughes arrived at the TPC Sawgrass with no scar tissue and played his first round at The Players Championship with no bogeys.

Pretty simple, eh?

The Canadian rookie shook his head and laughed. Even after going bogey-free in his debut yesterday for a five-under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt, Hughes saw enough of the Players Stadium Course to realize that surprises lurk around every corner.

“There's just not really a moment where you can let up,” he noted.

No need explaining that to Adam Scott, who won The Players in 2004 and was off to a strong start on a steamy afternoon when he was six-under and heading to the infamous par-three 17th with its island green.

First, he watched Masters champion Sergio Garcia hit a gap wedge that took one big hop, land just behind the cup, and disappear for a hole-in-one.

Scott followed by spinning a shot off the bank and into the water for a double-bogey, and he compounded that with another double-bogey on 18.

“I played some good golf out there and unfortunately not on the last two,” Scott said after settling for a 70.

“It happens.”

At least he had company.

Dustin Johnson's first wedge of the day hit the pin, caromed off the green, and led to bogey.

On a day when nothing seemed to go his way, the world's No. 1 player opened with a 71.

Rory McIlroy went to tap in from two feet and missed it, and then had to make one twice that long for his double-bogey on the 10th hole.

He shot 73 yesterday.

Through it all, Hughes was rock solid. Only twice did he have par putts longer than three feet—and he made them both.

The last piece of stress came on the final hole when trees block his way to the green. To chip out sideways would risk chipping into the water.

Instead, he found a four-foot wide window in which he had to keep it under on branch and go over two more.

It was a large enough gap and the perfect shot for a six-iron.

“I was close enough to the trees. It paid off,” said Hughes, who already has won (Sea Island) in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

McGirt played in morning and made a pair of eagles on the back nine in his round of 67.

Among those at 68 was Jon Rahm, another first-timer at this lucrative event who had one of four bogey-free rounds on the steamy day in north Florida.

Even with a mild wind in the afternoon, just over a third of the field broke par.

Fast starts and bad finishes were the norm, and not just for Scott.

Defending champion Jason Day ran off two-straight birdies after making the turn and was in the lead at five-under, which for the former world No. 1 was a peculiar position.

He hasn't won since The Players last year.

Day, however, made three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a 70.

David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. also shot 70, Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C. shot 71, and Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask. was at two-over.

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