PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—One birdie led to two more before Jason Day even hit his stride, and his round kept getting better until the world’s No. 1 player was in the record book and in the lead yesterday at The Players Championship.
He putted for birdie on every hole. His longest putt for par was 30 inches.
Day was as flawless as the morning conditions: summer heat, surprising calm.
When he blasted out of a tiny bunker within inches of the cup on his final hole, he had a nine-under 63, a two-shot lead, and a fresh memory of the TPC Sawgrass.
His most recent round was an 81 last year to miss the cut. This one tied the course record.
“It just kept on building and building, this round, just one after another,” Day noted.
“It just got better and better.”
His opening day improved even more after he finished. The Stadium Course was so vulnerable, mainly because of receptive greens and no wind, that 29 players from the morning group shot in the 60s.
A strong breeze finally arrived after Day was done—making it difficult for anyone to catch him.
“I don’t know what the guys were doing out there this morning but I don’t think we saw the same golf course this afternoon,” Rory McIlroy said after a 72 yesterday.
“It was a little firmer, the wind got up a little bit, and those guys made the course look awfully easy this morning.”
Jordan Spieth couldn’t say the same. He played with Day but couldn’t keep up.
In his first tournament since losing a five-shot lead at the Masters, Spieth dropped three shots over his last five holes en route to a 72.
He ended with a double-bogey on the par-five ninth when it took him five shots to get down from a bunker behind the green.
“I hit two fantastic shots and then not really sure after that,” Spieth said.
Masters champ Danny Willett—rusty from a month of being home with a newborn son and a green jacket—opened with a 70 yesterday.
Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C. shot a five-under to finish the round in a tie for 13th place.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask. shot a two-under while David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. was at one-under.
There were 40 rounds in the 60s and 82 rounds under par—the most at The Players since 1993.
Shane Lowry became the first player to shoot 29 on the back nine.
He was in the group at 65 that included Justin Rose and Bill Haas.
Ernie Els, who just last month started the Masters with a six-putt quintuple bogey, ran off six birdies and an eagle to lead the group at 66.