Players Championship 2017: Live Updates — Fowler off to fast start

Players Championship 2017: Live Updates — Golf Digest/Golf World will be keeping you informed on all the action from TPC Sawgrass throughout the week.

11:30 AM: Fowler faces his first issue of the day, chunking his third shot at the par-5 2nd into a pot bunker. Will need to get creative to walk out with a par…and he does just that, putting his sand shot from 30 yards out within feet of the pin.

11: 28 AM: Two weeks ago Ian Poulter was looking at an uncertain future in America. Thanks to Brian Gay, the Ryder Cup star is at Sawgrass and off to a good start, two under through seven holes. Forget a nice bottle of wine; Poulter owes Gay at least 20 percent of his earnings if he wins this week.

11:23 AM: After Kyle Stanley’s five-birds-in-six-holes start, I was worried the tour might start moving pins mid-shot. (Sorry, still having flashbacks to what happened on Saturday at the ’16 Players Championship. Don’t think we have to worry about Stanley setting any records today, as he just recorded his third bogey in seven holes to drop to three under.

11:16 AM: Got to feel for Harris English, who entered Sawgrass missing three of his past four cuts and on his way to saying sayonara to the weekend here. English shot 41 on his front side and has a triple and double on the back.

11:14 AM: Day drops a putt from wayyyyyy downtown on No. 1 to further crowd the four-under lead. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised; the dude is No. 3 in the world, after all. Still, for a guy who’s battled on and off the course this year, what a start.

11:10 AM: Phil Mickelson makes the turn in two under after a bogey on the 18th. Mickelson, who’s missed his last four cuts at Sawgrass, decided not to play a practice round this week, focusing his work on the range and practice green instead. Through nine holes, it appears the strategy is paying off.

11:00 AM: Patrick Cantlay is two under heading into the easier part of the course. He’s been right there in multiple events this season, and Cantlay certainly as the aptitude to make things interesting this week.

10:51 AM: We’d be remiss in failing to mention Day, who turns in a solid three-under performance on the back nine. For a guy who’s the reigning champ, not much talk on the Aussie’s chances this week. That could quickly change with another strong showing on the front.

10:42 AM: Blayne Barber makes consecutive birds on the 12th and 13th, joining a crowd at four under. In 10 events in 2017, Barber has finished inside the top 30 just once. But the former Walker Cup player has a ton of game, and a good week at Sawgrass could be just what the doctor ordered to get his season back on track.

10:35 AM: Mickelson makes eagle at the 16th to move to three under, one back of the leaders, while Fowler lips out his bird on the 17th.

10:30 AM: Spieth’s eagle bid falls short, but will have a tap-in for bird to get back on track…Looking at the score board, Stanley has two bogeys in his last three holes to drop to four under, while David Lingmerth — winner of the ’15 Memorial — is tied for the lead with a 32 on the back.

FYI, for those wondering about this year’s purse…

10:26 AM: Sticking with the featured group, Fowler puts his shot on the 17th to 10 feet or so, with an uphill putt for birdie. Day hits a beautiful shot but leaves it on top of the slope, while Stenson puts it safely on the green.

10:21 AM: Fowler makes the bird, and heads to the 17th — where he made ace on Wednesday — tied for the lead.

10:18 AM: Fowler has a nice bunker shot on the par-5 16th, while Day will have a meaty — but makable — eagle putt. Fans are definitely getting their share of fireworks in the early going.

10:12 AM: Back-to-back bogeys drop Jordan Spieth to even on the day. Since contending at his first Players go-around in 2014, Spieth has missed the past two cuts. Needs to get back on the birdie train in a hurry.

10:00 AM: Count Hideki Matsuyama among those starting off strong. Since coming out of the gates firing for the ’16-17 season, Matsuyama has struggled as of late, with just one top 20 in his last five starts. However, he’s been one of the few players to enjoy sustained success at Sawgrass with a 70.33 average. If his approach game awakens, circle Hideki as one to watch.

9:51 AM: Though most of the field is going low, Sawgrass is still having its way with a select few. Tyrone van Aswegen makes the turn in 43. On the bright side, he should comfortably break 120, so there’s that.

9:45 AM: There is nothing golf commentators love more than players making par putts over five feet. Judging by the broadcast crew’s tenor, you’d think Rickie Fowler’s seven-footer on the 14th was Justin Leonard’s bomb at Brookline during the ’99 Ryder Cup.

9:38 AM: While most of the field is going low early, it’s worth noting the ageless wonder Bernhard Langer is currently second on the board, heading to the 18th hole (his ninth) at three under. Golf, truly a game for life.

9:30 AM: Billy Hurley III doesn’t tee off until this afternoon, but he’s already won the day thanks to this kick-ass new golf bag:

9:22 AM: Don’t be surprised if you see an ace at the 13th, as the pin is in a very generous, accessible position. Day, Fowler and Stenson put their tee shots within feet, all converting for bird.

9:15 AM: Fowler makes his second birdie in three holes on the 12th. Most guys have mixed results at the Players, a sentiment Fowler epitomizes. He won the event in 2015, with another runner-up finish to boot. In his other five appearances, he has four missed cuts and a T-77. However, he comes in to 2017’s event ranking fourth in strokes gained: approach and his putting — which he struggled with most of 2016 — has been on fire this campaign, ranking sixth in strokes gained on the dance floor, a big reason why he leads the touring in scoring average. Don’t be surprised if he makes some noise this week.

9:06 AM: Big names on the course early in Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama and Phil Mickelson…but through six holes, Kyle Stanley is five under. For the sake of the field, here’s hoping Stanley doesn’t go super low; we don’t want another tour overreaction that leads to a debacle like last Saturday’s 75.8 scoring average.

9:00 AM: Kevin Na went for the green on the new drivable par-4 12th — which today measures around 300 yards — drove behind a set of trees, and withdrew. According to the tour, Na is suffering from illness, and was in the hospital earlier in the week.

8:49 AM: The Players is known as a physical and mental grind; apparently that includes writers, too, as my computer found a fantastic time to display the blue screen of death. Thank God for backups…we’ll be here throughout the day updating you on the first-round action at TPC Sawgrass. Don’t hesitate to interact with us on the Golf Digest Facebook, Instagram or Twitter platforms with your thoughts, observations or questions.

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