Players Championship 2019 live blog: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson highlight star-studded morning leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass


The opening round of the Players, or, THE PLAYERS Championship is officially underway here at TPC Sawgrass and scoring conditions are great with big names like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, and Justin Thomas all off to quick starts. In the afternoon wave, Tiger Woods leads the way, and he’ll be joined by Patrick Reed and defending champion Webb Simpson on the first tee at 1:27 p.m. Jason Day will tee off 20 minutes later with Tony Finau and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Francesco Molinari. Just behind them will be Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, who looks to snap out of a lengthy slump. The three-time major champion has finished no higher than T-35 in seven events this season.

It should be an action-packed day at THE PLAYERS, the fifth (unofficial) major. Keep it right here in our live blog for all the latest updates.

1:20 p.m.: An errant tee shot from Rory at the par-4 sixth hole left him in a tough situation to save par. But he holed a nice six-footer for par after an OK pitch to stay at 5-under, one back with three more holes to go.

1:07 p.m.: Rory McIlroy just rolled in another birdie at the fifth hole to get with one of Tommy Fleetwood and Ben An. The Northern Irishman’s putter is heating up—which is a bad sign for everybody else. Like we said below, Rory missed earlier birdies today of seven and four feet, proving just how well he’s hitting it.

1:03 p.m.: We now have a tie at the top of the lead! Tommy Fleetwood just holed a 28-footer at the eighth hole to tie Ben An at 6-under. That’s the first birdie at the 233-yard par 3 today.

Fleetwood has a par 5 to finish—so he might very well own the lead alone here shortly.

1:00 p.m.: The low round of the morning thus far is courtesy of Ben An, who made seven birdies to go with one bogey for an opening 6-under 66. He currently leads by one over Tommy Fleetwood (through 16) and Brandon Harkins (through 12). Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman are one back of them and T-4.

12:48 p.m.: Phil the Thrill! Lefty just four-putted on the third hole (it was ugggggly), but just got one back by holing a 46-footer on the next hole. That’s a microcosm of Phil’s career—moments where you’re left scratching your head, but followed by displays of brilliance that few others are capable of.

And how did Phil one-up that sequence? He just played an approach off the cart path. Of course he did. Does Phil practice these shots? It seems like he hits one off the path more than any other golfer.

12:40 p.m.: A Harris English highlight, everybody! The former Georgia Bulldog just holed his second shot at the par-5 11th hole from 236 yards out. What a shot! That gets English to T-19 and 2-under on his round. He’s missed the cut in all five appearances at TPC Sawgrass.

12:24 pm.: Rory McIlroy holes a six-footer at the par-5 second hole to get within one of the lead. Rory’s round has been a ball-striking clinic. He’s missed a four-footer and seven-footer for birdies, so this round could even be better. But Rory hasn’t made a bogey yet—and is putting the ball where he wants, which is key to scoring well at TPC Sawgrass.

Rory’s playing partner, 2012 Players champ Matt Kuchar, just missed his eagle putt at No. 2, so he taps in for the easy birdie to join Rory at 4-under, one back of the lead.

12:20 p.m.: Tommy Fleetwood is staying hot in Florida. The Englishman has birdied three of his past five holes to get within one of Ben An’s lead, and Fleetwood has another good look at the sixth hole.

Fleetwood shared the 36-hole lead last week at Bay Hill until he struggled in tough conditions, shooting a 76, though he rallied on Sunday to still finish T-3.

12:14 p.m.: Two impressive eagles in the past couple of minutes have vaulted players near the top of the leaderboard. Harold Varner just holed a wedge from 129 yards on the first hole for an eagle. That moves him to T-7 as he’s now 3-under on his round (through 10). And Louis Oosthuizen has made the first eagle of the week on the short par-4 12th hole, holing an 88-foot, 10 inch putt for the 2.

12:08 p.m.: Tiger Woods has arrived at TPC Sawgrass for his 1:27 tee time. Try to stay calm, everyone.

On a serious note, it’s great to see Woods playing just a week after he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a strained neck. Woods has improved with each start in 2019, beginning with a T-20 at Torrey Pines, followed by a T-15 at Riviera, and a T-10 in Mexico. The 14-time major champ is a two-time (2001 and 2013) Players winner.

12:00 p.m.: McIlroy misses a decent birdie look on No. 1 to remain at three under, but his playing partners both birdie. Mickelson makes from eight feet to move to two under, while Matt Kuchar converts from just outside of that to get to three under. Up ahead, Justin Rose finally makes his first birdie of the day on the par-3 third. At two over, the World No. 2 is just about the only big name not in red numbers right now.

11:50 a.m.: The guys are absolutely taking apart the par-3 17th hole this morning and Brandon Harkins becomes the latest to birdie the shortest hole on the course. Already his fifth birdie through his opening eight holes, Harkins currently leads by himself at five under par. The second-year PGA Tour pro has four career top 10s in 43 starts with his best finish being a T-8 at last year’s CareerBuilder Championship.

11:36 a.m.: Talk about an exciting morning, the World No. 1 just grabbed a share of the lead. With a 15-footer for birdie on No. 18, Dustin Johnson makes the turn at four under. He’s currently tied with Billy Horschel, Brendan Steele, Byeong Hun An, and Brandin Harkins. For full scores, click here.

11:28 a.m.: After grinding his way through nine holes, Justin Rose finally drops a shot on No. 1. In fact, he drops THREE shots with a rare triple bogey on one of TPC Sawgrass’ easier par 4.

Playing partner Xander Schauffele makes par to stay at two under while the third member of the group, Justin Thomas, makes birdie to move to three under.

11:24 a.m.: That’s more like it, Rory! McIlroy makes a nine-footer for birdie on No. 17 to finally get to three under after squandering several great opportunities. In fact, all three members of this featured group (Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar) make 2s on the infamous par 3. Easy hole. Nothing to it.

11:17 a.m.: Rory McIlroy misses a golden opportunity for birdie. Again. This time, after laying up on the par-5 16th, he hits his third to four feet, but bricks the putt. Rory remains at two under par.

11:15 a.m.: Somehow Dustin Johnson isn’t in one of the PGA Tour’s featured groups this morning. You know, Dustin Johnson? The world’s number ONE player? That guy? Anyway, despite the lack of coverage, DJ is doing typical DJ things at three under through eight holes.

11:10 a.m.: The first marquee group finishes its first nine with three pars on No. 18. Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are at two under while Justin Rose is even after carding nine consecutive pars to start.

11:02 a.m.: Happy Pi Day, everyone! Especially to Bryson DeChambeau. The PGA Tour’s mad scientist is enjoying this (very) unofficial holiday with three early birdies.

10:54 a.m.: It’s never surprising to see Sergio Garcia on the leader board at TPC Sawgrass and at two under through six, that’s exactly where the 2008 Players champ is. The Spaniard also did a little extra to ensure the golf gods would smile on him this week before the tournament started when he was involved in a marriage proposal on the 17th hole and wound up giving the couple $20,000.

It’s a good start to make up for all those greens he destroyed in Saudi Arabia last month. . .

10:46 a.m.: Thomas, Rose, and Schauffele can exhale after all finding the island green safely. At 121 yards and with little wind, this is about as easy as the infamous hole can play. A couple holes behind, Rory McIlroy misses an easy putt to get to three under. Shocking, I know.

10:40 a.m.: We’ve got a couple water balls from the marquee morning group, but not on the hole you’d expect. Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose each rinse their approach shots on the par-5 16th. After a delay to determine where Schauffele’s golf ball crossed, he winds up dropping well back and making bogey to drop back to two under. Rose, however, continues his incredible scrambling day by getting up and down from about 120 yards for a seventh consecutive par.

Meanwhile, the group’s third member, Justin Thomas, makes his first par of the day to stay at two under. Onto 17. . .

10:15 a.m.: Justin Thomas’ eventful start continues with a birdie on the par-4 15th. Despite pulling his drive into the pine straw, Thomas hit his approach to 20 feet and made the putt to get back to two under. Through six holes, he has yet to record a par. He trails playing partner Xander Schauffele by a shot. The FedEx Cup points leader is currently tied for first with Billy Horschel, Michael Thompson, Byeong Hun An, and Brandin Harkins. For full scores, click here.

9:55 a.m.: McIlroy makes another birdie, taking advantage of the drivable par-4 12th. McIlroy’s fantastic tee shot landed on the back of the green near the hole before skipping over. He got up and down for a second consecutive hole for birdie to get to two under through three holes. Going the other way, however, is Justin Thomas. After birdieing his first three holes, he drops shots on 13 and 14 to fall back to one under.

9:39 a.m.: Rory McIlroy gets up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-5 11th to record his first birdie of the day. Statistically, McIlroy is playing as well as anyone on tour this year, but despite racking up five consecutive top-6 finishes, he’s still looking for a first win of 2019. He’s also looking for a first win at TPC Sawgrass where he has four missed cuts in nine previous starts, highlighted by a T-6 in 2014.

9:32 a.m.: Justin Thomas has followed up his opening birdie with two more at the 11th and 12th holes, putting him in the solo lead at three under after Howell made bogey at No. 2. He’s among a group at two under that includes Bryson DeChambeau, Beau Hossler, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Billy Horschel.

9:12 a.m.: A wayward drive at the 14th leads to a bogey for Big Hoss, but he’s still two under. That’s now one off the lead of ATM machine Charles Howell III, who just eagled the par-4 fourth from a fairway bunker to get to three under. Strong start for Chucky three sticks. Up until last year, Sawgrass had given Howell fits throughout his career, his best finish being a T-32 all the way back in 2003. But in 2018 he go into contention by opening with rounds of 68 and 67, eventually finishing in a tie for 17th. Perhaps his fortunes are changing at the tricky Pete Dye track.

8:58 a.m.: There are 13 players already under par just an hour into the opening round, many of them marquee names. Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele all grabbed early birdies at the par-4 10th to get to one under.

But everybody is trailing Beau Hossler, who birdied his first three holes before making his first par at the par-3 13th. Hossler nearly got his breakthrough victory a year ago at the Houston Open, but Ian Poulter spoiled the party, draining a long birdie putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff. Poulter went on to win, while Hossler picked up his best finish of the season. He finished the summer strong after that, with a T-2 at the Travelers and a T-6 at the Quicken Loans. This season, Hoss has yet to register a top 10, and he’s still searching for an elusive first victory.

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