Players Championship 2017: Live Updates — Dustin, Rory highlight Friday morning wave

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

11:40 AM: David Hearn is officially human after bogeying the 15th hole. Now he faces the difficult finishing stretch of 16, 17 and 18 while tied for the lead with McGirt and Jon Rahm, who birdied the par-5 2nd hole to get his round back on track.

Charging up the leader board is Webb Simpson, who made the turn at two-under on the day and then added a birdie on the 10th. He’s now three-under on the day, four-under for the tournament, just a shot off the pace. Ben Martin is also working on a three-under round after a birdie on the short par-4 12th. He’s tied with Simpson at four-under.

There is a lot of steady play by those atop the leader board on Friday, and then there is the rollercoaster ride that is the round of Justin Thomas.

Thomas has followed up that colorful front nine with three consecutive birdies on his back nine. He has just one par in 12 holes.

11:05 AM: It doesn’t get much cleaner than the scorecard of David Hearn, who is now the solo leader at The Players. He followed up his birdie on the 12th with a stiff approach on the difficult par-3 13th, which he converted for a second straight birdie. If Hearn can get into the clubhouse without a blemish, he’ll be in an excellent position heading into the weekend.

10:40 AM: The struggles continue for Englishman Danny Willett, who hasn’t been able to find any consistent form since his 2016 Masters victory. After falling to 11-over through 27 holes, Willett has withdrawn, citing a back injury.

Meanwhile, David Hearn has found himself at the top of the leaderboard at five-under. The Canadian is working on a bogey-free round and just birdied the new-look 12th hole. He’s tied in first with William McGirt and fellow countryman Mackenzie Hughes.

10:14 AM: The biggest highlight of Thursday at The Players was Masters champion Sergio Garcia’s hole-in-one at the famous 17th hole. Now, Sergio gave us another moment to remember on Friday — with a little more luck on his side.

His tee shot bounced straight up off the railroad-ties in front of the green — and promptly landed to about 25 feet. That would be some birdie.

9:49 AM: Pete Dye giveth, and Pete Dye taketh away. Mackenzie Hughes had a two-shot lead for a very brief moment. Until a double-bogey put him back in a tie for the lead at 5-under.

9:36 AM: Move over, Jon Rahm. Another PGA Tour rookie who already has a win this season has grabbed the lead.

Canadian Mackenzie Hughes chipped in on the 12th hole to move to 7-under, one better than Rahm.

Impressive showings thus far from these rookies, bucking the trend of needing experience to exceed at the Stadium Course.

(Note, this tweet incorrectly identifies the holes that Hughes birdied. He birdies the 11th and 12th holes.

9:21 AM: One of the more surprising scores in the afternoon on Thursday was Sergio Garcia dropping four shots over his first six holes. And the Masters champ explained why that might’ve been:

“I was a little bit nervous early on. I think I wasn’t quite in the tournament because of everything that’s been going on with — obviously after the Masters win and media and people congratulating you left, right and center. You know, I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4-over after 6.”

Sergio got settled after that, leading up to the special hole-in-one at the 17th hole. He fought back to 1-over at the end of his round, and with two early birdies at the 11th and 12th hole, he’s back to red numbers. That’s the Sergio we remember from Augusta.

9:05 AM: Dustin Johnson, with just about the least conventional start you could have off 10. Three-putt birdie on his first hole, then this at the par-5 11th:

8:47 AM: Your new leader: Jon Rahm at 6-under-par with two quick birdies to start his round. The 23-year-old isn’t showing any signs of slowing down — this is a look at his scorecard early on Friday:

8:20 AM: Jon Rahm is quietly one stroke back at The Players, despite his first time around TPC Sawgrass. He starts his second round with a missed birdie putt at the 10th hole. But with some benign conditions this morning might give the early wave a chance to card some birdies, just like the early wave did on Thursday.

8:10 AM: We have another beautiful weather day at TPC Sawgrass as the second round of The Players is underway. It was an eventful opening day, highlighted, perhaps, by Adam Scott four shots in his final two holes to fall out of the lead.

But the Aussie and former Players champ is only three shots back as we kick off Friday. In fact, 32 players are within three shots of the lead as we get underway today — with some bigger names like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia just a couple behind the pace. They’ll need stellar rounds on Friday to get in the mix, but that’s what we expect from that starpower.

Day 1:

6:20 PM: We can think of no better way to end today’s blog than with an ace, courtesy of one Sergio Garcia:

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs are reigning champions and Sergio Garcia, beloved by American fans. Exciting times we live in.

Sadly, Adam Scott puts his shot in the drink, walking off with a double that puts him now at four under.

Thank you for following along today, and check back for tomorrow’s live blog.!

6:11 PM: Scott makes his first real mistake all day, putting his second shot on the par-5 16th in a bunker. Fails to get up-and-down, and walks to the 17th with a disappointing par.

5:56 PM: Sawgrass is supposed to be a mental and emotional drain, a round of golf often labeled an exercise in futility. Someone forgot to give Scott this memo, as he drains another birdie putt to take the lead. He’s walking around the with conviction of a quarterback at the homecoming dance.

5:45 PM: Rory makes another double, this time putting his tee shot on the 14th into the water. McIlroy’s now three over, and desperately needs to get things back on track if he wants to make the weekend.

5:36 PM: Another birdie for Scott, which moves him into a tie for the lead, with an accessible pin at the par-5 16th ahead.

5:24 PM: It’s fascinating how easily Johnson shakes off misfortune. After the lipped birdie putt on the 12th, DJ puts his tee shot on the par-3 13th to within feet. That’s why he’s No. 1, sports fans.

5:15 PM: McIlroy gets one back at the 12th, going for the green and making birdie. DJ, who laid up, watched his birdie attempt lip out.

5:05 PM: Scott takes par on the short 12th, but only one stroke back. He and Louis Oosthuizen are the only two in the top 18 with a major to their credit.

5:00 PM: Give Sergio credit: When things got tough, he didn’t pack it in. He’s played the last four holes in one-under par, and though he’s still three over, a few more birdies can give him some breathing room heading into Friday.

4:46 PM: Also making an afternoon run: Rafael Cabrera Bello. He hasn’t played well in America since the Ryder Cup, missing the weekend in four of his last five tournaments. Nevertheless, Cabrera Bello is three under through his first eight holes.

4:40 PM: McIlroy’s back-nine run prospects take a serious hit, as Rory doubles the 10th, dropping him to two over on the day. Plenty of birdie holes are ahead, though.

4:24 PM: Bubba Watson’s issues with his game continue, as Bubba has bogeyed five of his last six holes. Only three players have higher scores.

4:14 PM: Crowd favorite Boo Weekley makes an appearance on the leader board, moving to three under on the day. Wikipedia tells us that Weekley is 43 years old, which is astonishing because it seems like he’s been 43 for eight years now.

4:05 PM: Adam Scott makes birdie at nine, turning in an 33 strokes. Scott won this event in 2004 but hasn’t done much in the last nine years, his best finish a T-12 in that span.

3:54 PM: Dustin Johnson’s bounced back from his early adversity, getting things back to even as he heads to nine. The back side is playing close to a stroke and a half easier today. If he can finish at 70, he’ll be in prime condition after Day 1.

3:40 PM: Chez Reavie has five birdies through 11 holes, and has moved to one shot back of the leaders. Reavie hasn’t done much in three previous outings at the Players, but he’s looking like a veteran on Thursday afternoon.

3:28 PM: Rahm continues his march around the front at one under through seven, with Adam Scott keeping pace at one under as well. Though the scores aren’t necessarily high this afternoon (Sergio aside), not a ton of movement, either.

3:18 PM: Garcia makes another bogey, now at four over. Not looking good for Sergio, a past winner at Sawgrass…then again, he won the Masters, so the rest of 2017 is a victory lap.

3:13 PM: Through four holes, McIlroy’s at even, which is fine. Throughout his career, McIlroy has withered on the front while attacking the back. If he can keep it steady through his first nine, expect Rory’s name on the leader board by day’s end.

3:03 PM: Reigning Masters winners have not fared well at Sawgrass, and in the early going, Sergio Garcia appears to keep that trend going. Through five holes, Garcia already has two bogeys and a double.

2:52 PM: For the third time today, I’ve heard a player’s wife referred to as “his beautiful bride.” Are there any ugly brides? Even just average looking?…Yes, hard to believe I went 30 years being single.

2:48 PM: Kevin Kisner was a popular pick coming in, and those that picked him have to be encouraged by his birdie-birdie start. Kisner finished second here in 2015, and with an impressive display at New Orleans, Kisner seems to be firing on all cylinders.

2:36 PM: Much has been made about Dustin Johnson’s poor track record at TPC Sawgrass, but given the zone DJ’s occupied in 2017, we have to throw those past results out, right? Perhaps not: After a bogey at No. 1, Johnson three-jacks No. 2 and sends his tee shot at the third into a bunker. Though he saves par, this doesn’t look like the dominating Dustin we’ve seen as of late.

2:22 PM: Jon Rahm is off to a solid start, one under through his first three holes. First timers have a ghastly track record at the Players Championship. But if anyone can break the paradigm, it’s the young Spaniard.

2:13 PM: Let’s see how Bernd Wiesberger’s day is going…

…in a related note, Wiesberger finished with a three-over 75.

2:07 PM: The super group of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, struggle on No. 1, with McIlroy and DJ making bogey. Call me crazy, but I don’t think KPS Capital Partners is panicking just yet.

1:58 PM: Mentioned below, Noren finishes strong with a birdie on the ninth, walking off with an impressive four under. Noren hasn’t played particularly well on golf’s biggest stages, and he’s no spring chicken at 34. But hey, some people are late bloomers.

1:52 PM: McGirt bogeys the last to finish with a five-under 67. McGirt had two eagles and two bogeys on the back, coupled with a 33 on the front. As he proved at the Masters, McGirt might not have the sexiest game on tour, yet his ability to grind and avoid the big number is an asset that could come in handy this weekend.

1:48 PM: With hot temperatures in Ponte Vedra Beach this week, look for the afternoon rounds to see higher scores, as the greens should dry out. As we hit 2:00 PM on the East Coast, it’s becoming a tad harder to hold approach shots and putts are beginning to run out.

1:39 PM: Phil being Phil: With three bogeys and a double on the card, Mickelson still finishes with a two-under score.

1:36 PM: Alex Noren, who won four times last year, quietly rises up the board, reaching three under on the day. Noren hasn’t found the same success so far in 2017, although that’s clearly not the case on Thursday at Sawgrass.

1:29 PM: Fowler makes birdie on the last, while Day makes an ugly six. Both finish at two under on the day, but given their starts — Fowler four under through seven, Day reaching five — not the number they had in mind.

1:25 PM: Uh-oh. We go make a sandwich and come to find Day making a mess of the ninth, putting his approach in the bunker, his third over the green and his fourth about 10 feet away. Will have a tough putt for 69.

1:10 PM: Day saves bogey at the eighth, entering his final hole at the par-5 ninth. Not the finish Day wanted, but given he hasn’t had a top 10 since February, it’s a commendable Thursday showing.

1:07 PM: Day’s going to drop at least one shot after putting his chip on the par-3 eighth into a bunker. Meanwhile, William McGirt, also at four under, has a very makable eagle putt coming up on the 16th hole to grab sole possession of the lead.

1:05 PM: Not much separation from the early wave, as 22 players are within two shots of the lead. Day

1:00 PM: Holmes grabs the clubhouse lead with a four-under 68, while Cantlay bogeys the 18th for a 69.

12:50 PM: Si Woo Kim, who won the Wyndham Championship at 21 years old, reaches four under on the day. Has been off the radar this year, with just two top 25s in 18 events. Still, when you ask pros who the next big thing is, Kim garners a sizable amount of responses. Through Round 1 at the Players, you’re seeing why.

12:42 PM: The sixth, all of 380 yards, does a number on the entire featured group, as both Day and Stenson bogey while Fowler doubles. Proving there’s no true “easy” hole at Sawgrass.

12:40 PM: The short par-4 sixth is giving Rickie Fowler are sorts of fits. His approach sails way right into the trees, taking a ride on the cart path. His ball was stuck on a piece of wood, taking two shots to get out of jail. His fifth wasn’t necessarily close to the hole, either, leaving a delicate putt to save double.

12:33 PM: We have a J.B. Holmes sighting, as the bomber moves to four under entering the 18th. It’s been a tough season for the Ryder Cupper, entering this tournament ranked 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings. Holmes does have two top 10s in 10 outings at Sawgrass, so perhaps he’s found some magic in Florida.

12:31 PM: Mickelson bounces back from a double at the third with a birdie at the fifth. Still in good shape at two under on his day.

12:27 PM: Poor English’s round is complete, turning in an 84. At +12, he’s last by seven strokes. Here’s hoping the two-time PGA Tour winner can fix whatever is plaguing his game.

12:24 PM: Twenty-one players are currently two under or better in the morning wave, including the 54-year-old Vijay Singh, who continues to play the majority of his golf on the PGA Tour.

12:16 PM: Ouch; Badds puts his tee shot on the par-4 seventh in the drink. He walks off with a triple, dropping to two under on the day.

12:13 PM: We noted Tyrone van Aswegen’s rough start (43) at the beginning of this blog, but props to the South African for not giving up, coming back with a 32 on his final nine.

12:07 PM: Fowler backs up with a bogey on the fourth, now at three under. Doesn’t seem to fazed by it, smoking his drive on the fifth.

11:59 AM: Baddeley moves into a tie for the lead, while Cantlay cards two birds to sit just one back. Meanwhile, Spieth loses his drive on the fourth, and could be heading for another bogey.

11:49 AM: Aaron Baddeley, who missed five cuts in his last eight appearances, is just one back of the lead, four under through 14 holes on the day. If you didn’t bet on Baddeley to be here, well, that’s why there are high-rises in Vegas.

11:40 AM: Day opens on the back (Sawgrass’ front) birdie-birdie to move into the outright lead at five under. Aside from Dustin Johnson, no player’s “A” game has the potency and ceiling like Day’s, making the vexing sport look effortless.

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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