Johnson headlines crowded leaderboard at Players Championship

12 May, 2018, 23:13 | Author: Malcolm Quinn
  • Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Alex Noren share early lead in 1st round of The Players

The 33-year-old, who has never finished higher than 12th in the tournament, is tied at the top with compatriots Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley and Patrick Cantlay, with Alex Noren interrupting the American dominance at the top of the leaderboard.

None was anywhere near the lead at The Players Championship.

Kim, who past year was the youngest victor of the Players, joined legendary Jack Nicklaus as the first player since Nicklaus in 1977 to shoot an equal defending champion low first round of 67. Also at 5 under par are 51-year-old Steve Stricker, Keith Mitchell, Andrew Landry, Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas and South Africa's Rory Sabbatini.

However, with calm winds and ideal scoring conditions in the morning, Johnson opened the tournament on the back nine and rolled in five birdies to make the turn at 5-under 31. He shot a 41 on his closing nine. Johnson and the early birds couldn't ask for better scoring conditions at the TPC Sawgrass.

"The course is in immaculate shape, and it's going to firm up as the week goes on". I definitely want to stay there, but if someone passes me it's not going to change anything. The lead belonged to just about everyone else. I didn't feel like there was any, any more atmosphere out there than there usually would have been.

"You've got four par-5s - given the right wind, even I can get to all four of them".

"I don't remember any of that stuff", Johnson said. You can quickly make a big number. I'll take a look and see how the that group gets on this afternoon and see what that's like, but it was nice. He ended up with a bogey-5 at No. 18 after pulling a tee shot struck with a 3-iron into water left of the fairway. "I expect to play well".

"It's going to be punishment one of these days for sure".

"I think it's tomorrow and then in the weekend maybe greens will be more firm and faster. It will be challenging for sure, I'm well aware of that".

Mickelson was hanging around until chopping up the 14th hole for a double bogey, and then adding a pair of doubles on the 16th and 17th with balls in the water.

American Johnson's position at the top of the rankings, which he has held since February past year, is under threat from Rose, as well as Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth.

"I felt like it was a really solid round", said Johnson, who started at the 10th and went out in five-under 31 before picking up his sixth birdie at the par-five second. "I was surprised to be able to play, first of all, so that was more of the surprise, just to be able to tee it up".

"And I've done a good job of that in the times that I've played well here". I'll take anything in the 60s.

Mickelson blamed fatigue after the strain of fighting his way to a share of fifth in last week's Wells Fargo Championship. He shot 1-under 71.

Woods had the best round with an even-par 72, but he was so frustrated with how he played much of the day, he fist-pumped a bogey on 18.

His latest challenger for the No. 1 spot, Justin Thomas, shot a 73. Phil Mickelson struggled mightily in posting a 7-under 79.

He used the AimPoint method of reading greens for the first time in competition, and used a smaller version of the mallet putter that pushed him to the No. 1 ranking.

"I was just not making enough putts", Johnson said.

"I said it Sunday at Wells Fargo, I was anxious about energy this week", said Mickelson, who won the Players in 2007.

Johnson became No. 1 in the world when he won the Genesis Open a year ago and has stayed atop the world rankings since. But he could lose the top spot if he finishes 12th or worse.

Spieth, who played alongside Thomas in the opening round, will have even more work to do.



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