PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Martin Kaymer hasn’t won in the U.S. since the 2010 PGA Championship, but the former world No. 1 took a big step toward ending that drought Thursday at The Players Championship. Here’s how things look after the first round at TPC Sawgrass, where Kaymer leads by two after tying the course record:
Leaderboard: Martin Kaymer (-9), Russell Henley (-7), Sang-Moon Bae (-6), Jordan Spieth (-5), Lee Westwood (-5), Sergio Garcia (-5), Justin Rose (-5), Brian Stuard (-5), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (-5), Gary Woodland (-5), Scott Stallings (-5),
What it means: Most of the low rounds came from the early wave at the Stadium Course, as players took advantage of calm conditions and receptive greens. Kaymer shot to the top during the afternoon, though, with a 9-under 63 that put him two shots clear of Henley and four shots clear of the rest of this week’s elite field.
Round of the day: Kaymer made the cut in each of his first five Players appearances, a streak that will likely continue after the German tied the course record originally set by Greg Norman and tied last year by Roberto Castro. Kaymer teed off No. 10 and went out in 34 before a 7-under 29 on the front side, the first time anyone has shot sub-30 for nine holes on the Stadium Course in this event. He closed with four straight birdies and five over his final six holes.
Best of the rest: Henley held the top spot for much of the day, carding a 7-under 65 despite a double bogey on the seventh hole. A winner earlier this year at the Honda Classic, Henley shot a 6-under 30 on the back nine and notched six birdies across eight holes from Nos. 10-17.
Biggest disappointment: Phil Mickelson appeared to have a lock on this (dis)honor after an opening 75, but Adam Scott trumped him with a 5-over 77 after watery doubles on both Nos. 17 and 18. Scott had a chance to move to No. 1 in the world with a high finish this week, but after as many birdies (3) as double bogeys, he appears headed for an early exit.
Main storyline heading into Friday: With a 7:47 a.m. ET tee time Friday, Kaymer will likely enjoy calm conditions and could put some serious distance between himself and much of the field before the afternoon players begin their second round. A number of top names are lurking among the large group at 5 under, though, including Players rookie Spieth and Garcia, who is eager to atone for his close call last year on the Stadium Course.
Shot of the day: Justin Leonard began his round in style, holing an 8-iron from 147 yards on the first hole for a slam-dunk eagle. The shot actually damaged the front of the cup, and tournament officials had to re-cut the cup in order to repair the effect of Leonard’s accurate approach.
Quote of the day: “I just trust myself a lot more, and I stopped my thinking. I think the bottom line is I think less.” – Kaymer