Live Blog: First Round of the Players Championship

Gorant headshot Jim Gorant, senior
editor for Sports Illustrated, covered the morning action at the
Players Championship today. Damon
, senior writer for SI, has the late shift.Check the latest scores on our leaderboard

1:58 My time is up, so I'll have to go back to boring the guy who sits next to me with my droll observations. Before that though I want to point out that I leave you with 55 players under par, a few thrilling shots, and some stimulating fashion critiques. Damon Hack is a great guy, but I don't think he can top that. 1:52 Somehow, quietly (loosely translated that means I didn't notice), Jonathan Byrd got around in 67, putting him in a tie for second. 1:46 Ian Poulter, looking resplendent in a pink shirt and blue-and-white checked trousers, drops a seven footer on 17 to get to five under, one shot behind leaders John Mallinger and Richard Johnson. 1:42 Stuart Appleby, looking as if he's reenacting a scene from Dorf on Golf, hits a bunker shot on 8 from his knees. He almost holes it. Idling at even par, he could have used it. 1:38 It's good to see Fred Couples staying true to his glory days, the 1980s. He's not going for the trendy new short sleeve shirts that stop halfway down your upper arm (see Mickelson, Phil), he's got one of those baggy old boys that cover the elbow.1:33 Toms bogey's nine, meaning he bogied three of his last four to finish at five under. Ouch.1:29 Tiger says greens are unusually fast for Stadium course and Faldo confirms that they've mown them shorter, attempting to get them to 13 on the Stimpmeter. I wonder if that will change the profile of the typical Players winner? 1:25 Vijay hits it to eight feet on 17 then makes the putt to get to one under. Amazing considering he was three over early and looking like he'd be making the short commute home for the weekend. 1:20 Tiger makes a three-footer for birdie at 9, his final hole, to finish at one under. Cue the tape of a sullen and grouchy Woods telling some on course reporter, "I hit it great, I just couldn't make anything." It's true, he didn't make a putt longer than six feet all day. 1:13 Toms bogeys the eighth, dropping him to six under.1:11 Last year's underdog hero Paul Goydos: six over through 15.1:08 Reader Joe is back with more evidence in the Tiger driving debate, noting that Harrington was 159 in driving last year, for which he took no heat, and Sergio was 153rd yet always gets props for being a great driver. More good points. I'd say the difference with Harrington is that he ahs to hit the driver. he's not long enough without it. Guys like Tiger and Phil and Sergio have the length to make more choices about when to dial it back. As for Sergio ranking 153 last year, I'd have to look into it. Seems like an anomaly to me. If you ask anyone who knows or watches the game closely they will tell you Sergio drives the ball very well, and it's true. There's also the matter of how much you miss the fairway by. If you're two feet off the edge or 20 yards into the trees, it still goes as a missed fairway and that's not reflected in the stats but it makes a big difference on the scorecard.1:02 Phil playing with Adam Scott, who's a mystery. After tying for second at Sony, he's finished no better than 33rd and missed the cut in his last four starts. 12:56 FIrst sighting of Phil. No white belt, but but a Michelin-hugging white shirt and black pants that appear so shiny they could be nylon. Did Phil not get the weather report? 12:54 Some updates on players talked about earlier today: Garcia -3; Goosen -4; McIlroy -2; Singh E; Els 1; Pavin 2. 12:50 Toms drops a shot on the 6th. That moves him to seven under and on pace for a 65. He's got the par-5 ninth left, a pretty sure birdie hole. If he could pick up one more he could tie the course record of 63.12:44 No dice. Tiger still at one under. 12:40 Tiger to eight feet, birdie putt coming. 12:38 Tiger hit his drive on 7, 301-yards, down the middle. 130-yards to the hole. 12:36 Tiger's driving accuracy for the day: 61.54%. Field average: 62.78%. That's good news for Joe and other Tiger fans. 12:35 Reader Joe chimes in with a defense of Tiger, pointing out his man drove it better than Phil last week and for the year is driving better than Anthony Kim, Padraig Harrington and Phil, and wondering why no one suggests they put the driver away. He's right. Tiger drove it better than Phil last week, which is why Tiger almost won. As for the season, Kim and Harrington don't compare favorably to anyone in almost any category as they're both having terrible years thus far. People are all over Tiger and his driver because the rest of his game is so there, that the big stick is all that's holding him back. Anyway, good points Joe, but consider an anger management seminar. 12:28 After coming short on a 163-yard approach Tiger makes bogey at the 6th and drops back to one under. 12:25 Goosen and Garcia both get to three under. They're not gaining any ground yet as Toms makes another birdie to go to eight.12:23 Reader Eaglecap asks: Which is more likely to happen first, Tiger throws a club or Phil has a Tin Cup moment. Hmmm. Tough to say. Throwing clubs comes as naturally to Tiger as surfing the web at work does for the rest of us, but this risk/reward nature of this course just about begs Phil to do something questionable at every hole. I'm gonna go with Tiger. Of course, it's impossible to know because there's no TV yet and Tiger has missed a bunch of fairways. His bag could already be black-and-blue.12:17 By my count, there are 38 players under par in the early going. But there's no more rain in the forecast for the week and the temps are supposed to reach 90 degrees every day, so it should get harder and tougher out there.12:09 David Toms hits his approach on 4 to five-and-half feet and makes the putt. He's the man at seven under.12:05 Reader Bob asks, "Would Tiger's accuracy improve if he took 10 yards off the distance. That's a difficult question with a complex answer, but let me take a stab at it. No. I kid. When Tiger struggles with the driver it's because his body gets ahead of the club and dialing it back a tad isn't going to stop that. It may throw his timing off even more. 12:00 Sergio birdies the second after hitting his drive deep into the trees.11:55 Golf Channel reporting tha
t Phil Mickelson spent an hour and a half working with Butch Harmon this morning in prep for his round. Let's hope Butch advised Phil not to wear the white belt.
11:51 Earlier in the week Johnny Miller said Tiger should play the Stadium course the same way he played Royal Liverpool a few years ago, when Woods hit only one driver all week but the kept the ball in play by hitting shorter clubs. Shotlink doesn't give club information but it looks like Tiger is scaling back off the tee on all but the longest holes and it's working for him. 11:42 Interesting factoid: Garcia and Paul Goydos had the low score last year at 283 or five under. Leader right now is David Toms at six under. After last night's rain the course is soft and the scoring is good. 11:35 More good news for Tiger at 2. He split the fairway again on the long par 5. Hit the green in two and two-putted for an easy bird.11:33 Jeev Singh makes birdie at 16 to get to five under while John Rollins gets one at 15. They join Verplank and Toms at the top of the heap. Meanwhile, Woods birdies No. 2 to get to two under. 11:30 Nicholas Thompson hits his tee shot on 17 to about three inches, just missing the first hole in one at 17 in seven years. 11:28 Since I pointed out earlier that Corey Paven was dead last, I'd be remiss if I didn't update: He made three straight birdies at 11, 12 and 13 to get back to even par. Richard Johnson, however, made a bogey and has now fallen out of the lead.11:25 Billy Mayfair jars a 48-footer at 17 to move to one under.11:22 More on Verplank's eagle: He hit a 257-yard approach to 39 feet and then canned the putt11:18 After bogeys at 18 and 1, Scott Verplank eagles number 2. His second eagle of the day, which moves him back to five under and tied for the lead. Toms birdies 1 and moves to five under as well, giving us a three-way tie for the lead.  11:15 Cameron also reports that the Florida humidity is taking a toll down in Ponte Vedra: It's extremely steamy here. Rained like the dickens last night in nearby Neptune Beach, and I'm sure it rained a bit here. "Brutally hot out there," the USA Today golf guy just said, having stepped into the media center. Everyone is dripping. Thank goodness Joey Sindelar has moved on to the Champions tour, a day like this could leave him passed out from dehydration after nine holes. 11:10 This just in from Golf Magazine's Cameron MorfitStop the presses: D.A. Weibring has withdrawn with a bad back. He was 8-over through six holes. 11:07 After driving into the fairway bunker at 1, Woods makes par. After the first few holes Tiger has been able to keep it in the short grass, a good sign for his week. 11:02 Richard S. Johnson birdies the 1st, his 10th hole, to go to five under and take the lead as Mallinger bogeys 13.11:00 Reader Frankie B. says that he loves the Stadium course, especially 17 but wonders why they don't mix it up and take the Players on a Pete Dye tour, hitting a different one of his courses every year. Interesting idea as Dye certainly has a lot of cool tracks to chose from, but I think part of Player's appeal is being so strongly identified with one particular course, kind of like the Masters. And it helps that the course, and one hole specifically, is very dramatic and very memorable. Other thoughts? 10:55 Interesting note on Sergio. He has gone back to the long putter, but like Angel Cabrera he's not anchoring the butt against his belly. He's holding it at the end and swinging it like a regular putter. Hey, it worked for Cabrera. Now all Sergio has to do is learn how to get a lucky bounce off a tree trunk.10:51 After parring the 16th, Sergio knocks his first putt on 17 six feet past the hole but makes the comebacker to stay at three under. 10:48 John Mallinger makes back to back birdies at 10 and 11 to grab the lead at five under. 10:44 For his first putt at 17 Davis Love had to stand on the railroad ties around the edge of the island green. Sergio Garcia's godfather, Dick Friedman, asks if Love would've incurred a penalty stroke had he fallen in. The answer is no, but he would have faced the lifelong penalty of becoming a YouTube star.  10:40 Toms is having quite a season after struggling for the last two years. So far he has four top six finishes, highlighted by a tie for second at the Sony. 10:36 David Toms makes his fourth birdie in five holes at 17 to get to four under and grab a share of the lead as Verplank bogeys 18. Nick O'Hern, Tiger's match play nemesis, has also risen to four under as has Richard Johnson. It's officially a traffic jam at the top.10: 31 Here's a surprise. Playing on his home course, Vijay Singh is three over through six holes. On the other hand, Jeev Singh is three under. 10:27 Els drops a 15-footer for birdie to get back to even par. Tiger gets the full around the rim lip out.10:22 Leonard and Els safely aboard at 17 as well. Woods' official distance is 9' 8", closest to the pin thus far.10:19 Tiger hits 9-iron to about 12 feet on 17. 10:16 Update on 17. No birdies yet, one ball in the water. Charlie Wi was the victim10:13 Tiger to 3'11", drops the putt, eagle, one under.10:10 Not to start doing play-by-play here, but after a 318-yard drive, Tiger is in the middle of the fairway with 181 to the green on the par-5 16th. Stay tuned...10:09 Verplank birdies 16 right on top of Wagner. He's alone at five under. 10:08 As Tiger Woods approaches 17 it's time to officially open the question: Gimmick or great hole? My answer, both. After a biridie at 16, Johnson Wagner joins Verplank at the top of the leader board. 10:05 Rory McIlroy is no longer a hot teen. He turned 20 earlier this week and celebrated with a blowout in Vegas. That hasn't stopped him making in early birdie, as he's one-under through two. 10:00 As Tiger pars the 15th, he's not alone at one over. Ernie Els, Davis Love III and Mike Weir are floating one above par. 9:55 Took a closer look at Ben Curtis's season. Not a good year for Curtis thus far. His best finish is 25th at the Northern Trust and for a guy who doesn't kill but makes up for that with accuracy and hot putting, he's 119th in driving accuracy, 87th in GIR and 97th in putting average. Don't know if I like Ben Curtis this week, but then again I'm not the leader of the Sergio Garcia fan club, either. 9:51 SI senior editor Dick Friedman has emailed to gloat about Sergio's hot start. However, he's already hedging his bet by bringing Ben Curtis into the conversation.9:47 Sergio Garcia hit his tee shot at the par-3 13th to four feet and made the putt. He now has three birdies in four holes. 9:44  Scott Verplank jars a 141-yard approach at the 449-yard par 4 15th to follow a birdie with an eagle and jump into the lead at four under. 9:40 editor points out that Tiger hit his drive into an area of the course described as "other." From there his next shot landed in "landscaping." He wound up with a bogey and slips to one over. 9:36  At the same time, as Phil Mickelson pointed out in interviews earlier this week, the rough is lower this year, which will allow for more recovery shots from trouble. That could play to the advantage of both Tiger and Phil. Sergio moves to two-under. 9:32  Reader Matt H points out the oddness of no one picking Tiger. That is striking, but after the way Tiger hit it last week it's understandable. You can't miss all over the place at Sawgrass and still have a shot. Also, since winning in 2001, Tiger has not recorded a top 10 in six starts at the Players and has only nine sub-par rounds in his last 24 starts.9:28  John Mallinger jumps to 3-under through seven. HIs best finish of the year? Tied for sixth in Houston. 9:25  More picks. Alan Shipnuck: Phil Mickelson; Michael Bamberger: Sergio Garcia; Dick Friedman: also Sergio Garcia, but he's the last person in the world who still expects Sergio to be a world beater. 9:20  Time for picks. SI staff sees it like this:  Farrell Evans: Sean O'Hair; David Dusek: Jim Furyk; Gary Van Sickle: Boo Weekley. For the record, I'm taking Kenny Perry. Who you got?9:15  Speaking of Sergio. He's gone back to the long putter this week after missing the cut at Quail Hollow. His best finish this year is 13th at the Honda. The late putter switch is never a good sign, but the Stadium Course is ideal for Sergio. It's much more about ballstriking than putting. 9 a.m.  Welcome. Let's get right to business. Long lost Ryan Moore is at -2 through six, as is Martin Laird. They lead seven players who are two under. Notables: Sergio Garcia at -1 and Tiger Woods is even through three. Corey Pavin and Bob Estes are bringing up the rear at 3 over. 

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by Kevin Cunningham