World No 1 Jon Rahm three behind after a three-under 69, with Viktor Hovland five back; Rory McIlroy only able to play two holes after a delayed start and lengthy storm delay; Watch day two live on Friday from 12pm on Sky Sports The Players
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 11/03/22 12:29am
Tommy Fleetwood raced into a share of the early lead after a weather-disrupted opening day at The Players.
The Englishman carded a six-under 66 to move top of a congested leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass, where more than half of the field were unable to complete their rounds due to a delayed start and lengthy mid-round storm delay.
Fleetwood is joined a share of the lead by Tom Hoge, who birdied three of his last five holes to also get to six under, while Keith Mitchell carded a final-hole bogey to fall a shot off the pace alongside Joaquin Niemann, Kramer Hickok and Anirban Lahiri.
“It’s a great first day,” Fleetwood said. “I’m chuffed to be in on that score. I felt like I drove the ball well aside from a couple, and I felt like I chipped and putted great. That was the most I could have got out of the round, so days like that are very, very pleasing.”
Canada’s Taylor Pendrith got within two of the lead with two holes to play when play was suspended just after 6.30pm (11.30pm GMT) due to fading light, with more bad weather expected on Friday when the first round continues at 7.15am.
Summary of weather and delays/suspensions for the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship pic.twitter.com/fdQGTnVBU4
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) March 11, 2022
Fleetwood sets Sawgrass pace
Beginning on the back nine and with preferred lies in place, after a one-hour delay due to overnight rain, Fleetwood followed a two-putt birdie at the par-five 11th by taking advantage of the par-five 16th and chipping in from off the green off the 18th to reach the turn in 33.
Fleetwood rolled in a 12-foot birdie at the first and was left facing a putt of a similar length at the par-five next when play was halted due to dangerous weather, with the world No 49 returning over four hours later to convert his opportunity and move into a share of the lead.
The 31-year-old made a seven-foot birdie at the fifth but failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker to save par at the next, before draining a 25-footer on his penultimate hole to sign for his lowest PGA Tour round since the same event in 2019.
Varner III had briefly held a two-stroke advantage after making four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the ninth and then posting successive gains from the 15th, only for him to find water off the 17th tee on his way to a triple-bogey six and then drop another shot at the par-four last.
“It’s a game. That’s why we play it,” Varner said. “No one is going to die out there. I’ve always said that. I just was in between clubs and didn’t execute the shot, and that’s what you get a lot out here. Either you get it done or you don’t.”
Rahm in chasing pack
World No 1 Jon Rahm holds the early advantage in the race to stay top of the world rankings, with two birdies in his last three holes seeing him post a three-under 69 to stay within three of the lead.
Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay, playing alongside the Spaniard, carded rounds of 71 and 72 respectively. Collin Morikawa also part of the group of world No 1 contenders, was one under after two holes of his round.
Defending champion Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy were both six behind when play was suspended for the day, with 18 players yet to get their first rounds underway.
Watch The Players throughout the week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated Players Championship channel. Live coverage continues on Friday from midday on Sky Sports The Players.
Source : Sky Sports