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Rory McIlroy endures nightmarish start to Players Championship as Collin Morikawa shines in first round


The 2019 champion at Sawgrass left with Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, in a marquee group of the world’s top three players, with the top spot in the standings again up for grabs this week.

That, along with the $4,500,000 offered to the winner, already appears to be beyond McIlroy, as he started with a double bogey on his first hole and only birdied twice in the 17 that followed. The 33-year-old only hit six of 14 fairways.

“You have the four par-fives which are very accessible and then you have a few other holes, four and 12 in particular, so you have six really accessible that if you are on your game you should birdie on those said McIlroy.

“I feel like it’s as penal as I’ve seen in a long time. I think it should go back to when the tournament was played in May, when we were in the rough of Bermuda, for it to be as penalizing as that.

It was a better day for Scheffler, who started with nine straight pars before kicking into high gear on the back nine, with a birdie on the 18 taking it to four under. Rahm is three shots down after an opening 71.

Opening day pace was set by Chad Ramey on his Sawgrass debut, with a bogey-free 64 that was just one stroke off the course record. Collin Morikawa is a shot further, the two-time major champion enjoying a quick return to form after missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.

“Last week I kind of lost my mind, I didn’t know where the ball was going and I think that score showed that I knew where the ball was going and it gave me a lot of freedom to play the game. golf,” Morikawa told Sky Sports.

American Hayden Buckley became just the 10th player since 1991 to have a hole-in-one at Sawgrass’ famed 17th hole, hitting a wedge past the pin that extended neatly into the cut as he ran away to celebrate.

On the other end of the spectrum, Aaron Wise’s day ended in disaster as he sent three straight shots into the water from the 18th tee, playing seven as he flared one in pine straw. From there, he did well with damage limitation going up and down from 70 yards, although that damage was a sextuple-bogey ten as he carded a round eight over par 80.

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