PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Hall of Famers Fred Couples and Greg Norman have unlikely company.
Roberto Castro – who has missed as many cuts (seven) as he’s made this season, who has posted just one of his last 15 rounds in the 60s, and who was playing here for just the third time – tied the course record at TPC Sawgrass with a 9-under 63 Thursday.
On a windless day on the Stadium Course, he hit six approach shots inside 5 feet and missed a 13-footer on the last that would have given him the record outright. Instead, the 27-year-old making his first Players appearance settled for a bogeyless 63 and the early lead at the richest tournament in golf.
“It’s just proof that when you play good, it’s good enough,” he said afterward.
Starting his day on the back nine, Castro went out in 31 after hitting both his tee shot on 17 (9-iron) and approach on 18 (4-iron) to a foot. He eagled the par-5 second hole, after hitting 3-iron from 226 yards to 3 feet, and tacked on birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 before making par on the last three holes.
“It was just so simple,” said Jason Bohn, who was grouped with Castro.
For the day, Castro hit all but one fairway, 15 of 18 greens, and took 26 putts, though he didn’t make a putt longer than 9 feet, 8 inches.
Entering this week, he had missed three of his last five cuts and was without a top-20 finish since early February. At the Humana Challenge, he was in a tie for second through 54 holes but shot 72 Sunday to fall to T-37.
That his recent skid came to an end at quirky TPC Sawgrass was even more unlikely.
“I don’t think anyone has figured out what the secret is to this place,” he said.
“I think every hole out here is hard,” he said.
It just didn’t appear that way Thursday.