12 Mar 2021 | Professional golf |

Day starts strong at The Players

by Martin Blake

Sergio Garcia Players image
Leader Sergio Garcia reacts to the crowd at No. 9 green at Sawgrass today. Photo: Getty

On a quiet opening day for the Australians at The Players, Jason Day led the way for his countrymen and Sergio Garcia ran away at the top.

Day shot a two under par opening round of 70 at TPC Sawgrass that could have been lower, and he sits tied-11th, five shots astray of Garcia, who opened with a brilliant 65.

The Queenslander, who has not won a tournament for more than two years, missed a few chances coming in – from two metres for eagle at the par-five 16th, from close range at the par-three 17th and from four metres at the 18th – but still made a couple of putts and hit the ball nicely on his way to a good start.

Day’s last victory on tour was the Wells Fargo Championship in 2018, although he has history at Sawgrass, where he won in 2016. He has remodelled his swing with instructor Chris Como in the hope of protecting his chronically injured back, but the process has been relatively slow in terms of results.

Of the other Australians, Cam Smith and Marc Leishman (71) both posted red numbers, with Smith finishing with birdies from close range at the 17th and 18th.

Adam Scott posted an even-par 72 with the best shot of the day at the famous island green 17th, and Victorian veteran Cameron Percy also made a nice birdie at that spot in his first tournament round at the course.

Percy shot an opening 73 while Matt Jones was even through 17 holes when play was suspended because of darkness, and another first-timer, Cameron Davis, opened with a four over par 76.

Numerous balls disappeared into the water at the 17th with South Korea’s Ben Ahn donating four by himself on his way to a calamitous 11. Almost a quarter of the field, 35 in total, found the pond.

Rory McIlroy (79) was among the big names who struggled despite excellent conditions.

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