With rounds of 5-under 67 Thursday, four players - Hideki Matsuyama, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na, and David Hearn - share the lead through Day 1 at The Players Championship. Here's how things look after 18 holes at TPC Sawgrass:
Leaderboard: Matsuyama (-5), Hoffman (-5), Na (-5), Hearn (-5), Merritt (-4), Martin (-4), Horschel (-4), Todd (-4), Howell III (-4)
What it means: Matsuyama, the winner last year at the Memorial, already has seven top-10s this year, including a T-5 at the Masters and a run to the Round of 16 last week at the Match Play, which technically goes in the books as a T-9. Hoffman is back on top of an important leaderboard after playing second fiddle to Jordan Spieth for four days at Augusta. Na has previously enjoyed success at Sawgrass, having held the 54-hole lead in 2012 while battling some serious mental demons. And, finally, Hearn is in search of his first PGA Tour victory at a venue he seems to enjoy. The 35-year-old Canadian is a combined 18 under in his last nine rounds at The Players. Only Rory McIlroy (-19) and Sergio Garcia (-21) have played the Stadium Course better over that stretch.
Round of the day: Matsuyama, Na, and Hearn turned in tidy rounds, making just one bogey each, while Hoffman can blame a triple bogey on the first, his 10th hole of the day, for the fact that he isn't on top by himself.
Best of the rest: Six more names sit just one shot back, including reigning Tour champions Billy Horschel and Derek Fathauer, the latter of whom won the Web.com Tour Championship last year on the Valley Course.
Notable names: The top two players in the world got off to wildly different starts at Sawgrass, and that hoped-for showdown over the weekend now looks unlikely. Playing in the same group, Rory McIlroy posted a 3-under 69, highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 16th, while Jordan Spieth struggled to a 3-over 75. In the afternoon, playing one group apart, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both put the ball in the water off the tee on the 18th hole en route to closing double bogeys and matching 1-over 73s.
17 struggles: Louis Oosthuizen and J.B. Holmes both arrived at the par-3 17th late in the afternoon with a share of the lead at 5 under par - and made double bogey after finding the water. Holmes finished with 69 and Oosthuizen with 70. A total of 21 players rinsed their ball on the 123-yard hole, which played to a scoring average of 3.2, fourth hardest on the course.
Biggest disappointment: Gary Woodland failed to carry any momentum from one coast to the other. The runner-up at last week's WGC-Cadillac Match Play signed for a 7-over 79, playing the last four holes of the Stadium Course in 6 over. Of the 143 players in the field, Woodland is tied with Paul Casey for last place through Round 1 (call it the McIlroy effect). Honorable mention in this category goes to Brooks Koepka, who made consecutive quadruple bogeys on 17 and 18 en route to a 6-over 78.
Shots of the day: Fathauer capped off an eagle-birdie-eagle stretch with a hole-out from 130 yards on the par-4 fourth, knocking his ball off the flagstick and underground. Jason Bohn had a hole-out of his own for eagle from 134 yards on the par-4 sixth, when his ball landed next to the pin, took two hops sideways and found the cup.
Quote of the day: “I guess top-5s in four majors aren’t that good. Like I said, I’ll take care of my business and I’ll be just fine.” - Fowler (3-under 69) responding to a recent poll of Tour pros that labeled him "overrated."
Storylines to look for heading into Friday: McIlroy and Fowler sit just two shots off the early pace and are in position to vault their way to the top of the board, while Spieth, Woods and Mickelson will all need to rebound from over-par starts if they want to stay around for the weekend.