Garcia makes hole-in-one at Players' famed island-green 17th

Spieth and Masters victor Sergio Garcia are level at one over following 73s, the latter's display highlighted by his hole-in-one at the iconic 17th hole.

Fellow Queenslander Rod Pampling is a shot back at even par, the 47-year-old sharing 51st after a 72, while Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers shot 73.

The three highest scores in the field on Thursday were produced by 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett (79), Scott Piercy (80) and Harris English (84), who had four double bogeys and a triple bogey on his scorecard.

Mackenzie Hughes sounded nearly in awe of his accomplishment after keeping a clean card (five birdies, no bogeys). Noting Thursday's front pin location, which made things a bit less stressful for the golfers, as well as the firmness of the green, he said, "It's going to be a test throughout the whole week".

Garcia admitted he struggled to get back into competitive mode early in the round, adding: "I thought it was going to be easier than it was". Jason Day last year became the first player in 33 years to lead from start-to-finish.

"I'm excited about where the state of the game is", Day said.

Rory McIlroy didn't break par at the TPC Sawgrass until his fourth appearance in The Players, including the year after he won the U.S. Open. - On a track as hard to dominate as the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and a tournament as tough as The Players Championship, synergy - when the results are actually better than the sum of its parts - can be the most important attribute to carry in the bag. He was 4 over through six holes to start this tournament and had not made up any ground until a birdie on the 16th, his ace on the 17th and a par save on the 18th for a 73.

"I hit a couple of tee shots practising on Monday and just didn't feel right and I've been getting treatment on it", McIlroy said. "Obviously, it could have been really good today but ended up just being okay". His five birdies kept him within striking distance though.

Cell phones on the golf course are no longer a no-no.

World number one Dustin Johnson tops a large group at 71 that also includes German Bernhard Langer, who at 59 is the oldest player in the tournament.

There are 11 players at three under, including Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen, Brendan Steele and Kyle Stanley. Especially like you go to No. 2, let's say you hit a good shot into 2, and it lands four, five feet off the right side of the green, off the putting surface, not the slope, but it hits that slope and it shoots it over there right and you got nothing.

Alex Noren (68), Jon Rahm (68) and Lee Westwood (70) did not make bogey either.

"It was a frustrating time in the round there where I was trying to kind of get some momentum going".

When he was introduced on the first tee as the Masters champion, the rush of emotions caused him to lose focus again.

  • Jo Lloyd