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No. 1 worldwide, Dustin Johnson was among the group of big names of the housewife to take an early break at the 2019 Players Championship on Thursday. Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm also had a strong start.
Billy Horschel led early on a group of US hopefuls competing for the top of the standings, while Xander Schauffele, Michael Thompson and Brandon Harkins were also in the running. South Korean Byeong-hun An was impressed from the early stages and shared a joint lead at three under the first 9 holes.
The first round started at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where a long list of the world's top golfers were tempted to compete for their $ 12.5 million pot (£ 9, 5000000). According to Pat Ralph of Golf.com, the tournament purse is the largest in the history of this sport.
Johnson made a dazzling start to Florida and made two birdies on two of his first three holes to move within reach of the leaders. McIlroy, Garcia and Rahm each had a birdie on the 11th and 12th holes to stay close in the standings.
Thursday first ranking
1. Billy Horschel: -4 (through 7)
T1. Byeong-hun An: -4 (through 11)
T3. Michael Thompson: -3 (through 12)
T3. Bryson DeChambeau: -3 (to 7)
T3. Brandon Harkins: -3 (through 5)
T3. Brendan Steele: -3 (through 9)
T7. Dustin Johnson: -2 (through 6)
T7. Jon Rahm: -2 (through 6)
T7. Sergio Garcia: -2 (through 6)
T7. Rory McIlroy: -2 (through 6)
Visit PGATour.com to see the full ranking.
None of Thursday's beginners had a better start than Horschel, who sank three birdies in a row to ignite his seventh championship of players in a way that he hopes to maintain.
Florida-based sports journalist Clayton Freeman highlighted Horschel's quick start, which started the 10th hole and added a fourth out of 15 morning bird to become the absolute leader for the first time:
Three birdies in a row for Billy Horschel, who is at the top of the standings at -3 alongside Justin Thomas.
Johnson took part in this competition hoping to build on his WGC-Mexico Championship win in February, and he was quick to get out of the blocks at the stadium.
The American took off the 10th in the first 300-yard run before moving closer to space, but he cleared a 10-foot gap to make a promising start, as the PGA Tour shares:
Like Horschel, McIlroy, Rahm and Garcia also saved shots on the 12th and 13th holes of what turned out to be a generous section for some of the elite.
Garcia won this competition in 2008 and also finished second twice (2007, 2015), which gives him a head start on his playing experience in Ponte Vedra.
Speaking of experience, the stars did not line up for Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson during the first exchanges.
The Englishman Rose was frank in his approach and started with six successive passes, while Mickelson and Watson each had a birdie and a bogey:
Grind early in the morning.
@ JustinRose99 is looking for ways to make @THEPLAYERSChamp peers.
Justin Thomas showed himself promising at the start of the day and managed three birdies in a row, but back-to-back bogeys from the 13th and 14th holes have temporarily returned him to the standings.
Tiger Woods, two-time winner of the Players Championship, and Webb Simpson, defending champion, will be on the list of candidates for the start of their tournaments on Thursday.