PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The TPC Sawgrass doesn’t look so daunting without any wind.
J.B. Holmes led the assault on par Thursday morning at The Players Championship by making the most of muggy, calm conditions for a bogey-free round of 6-under 66 to take a one-shot lead among the early starters.
Holmes finished off his round with a 20-foot birdie putt on the island-green 17th hole, where the pin was on the lower right portion of the green and easily accessible below the ridge. He did it the hard way with a slick putt, typical of his day.
“It was a fun day, one of those rounds were everything was going pretty good,” Holmes said. “It’s kind of one of those rounds where it’ snot easy, but it felt pretty easy.”
Holmes wasn’t alone.
Heath Slocum, Luke Donald, New Orleans winner Jason Bohn and San Diego winner Ben Crane were at 67, while the group at 68 included Tim Clark, Matt Kuchar and J.J. Henry.
Eighteen of the 72 players who teed off in the morning shot in the 60s.
That group did not include Phil Mickelson, although he wasn’t far behind. Mickelson, who can go to No. 1 in the world for the first time with a victory and Tiger Woods finishing out of the top five, got it around in 70.
“Shooting 70 today isn’t the round that you want,” Mickelson said. “We came out in perfect conditions. There wasn’t much wind, the greens were receptive, and there were a lot of low scores. But the reason I think this was a good day for me is I just didn’t have it. So tomorrow if I can come out and get hot and shoot something in the mid-60s, I can get back in the tournament.”
Woods was among those teeing off in the afternoon. He was even par through four holes, missing a 5-foot birdie putt on the second hole and saving par from 10 feet after getting into trouble on the fourth.
The only time Holmes got into serious trouble was on the 10th, when his approach sailed over the green. The best he could do from there was chip to 15 feet, and he made the par putt.
Perhaps the most telling part of the round was the big numbers – or lack of them. Greg Owen hit two in the water on the 17th and made a quadruple-bogey 7 that ruined his round of 73, while the highest score was a 76 by Richard Johnson.