Jason Day fired a nine-under-par 63 to tie the TPC Sawgrass course record and take a two-shot lead at the Players Championship.
Day leads of a large group of golfers in a tie for second on seven-under, that includes Justin Rose and Shane Lowry.
World number two Jordan Spieth struggled on Thursday as he carded a level-par 72 to find himself in a tie for 83rd. Spieth is joined by defending champion Rickie Fowler who also registered a 72.
Day, who has already won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Match Play this year, continued his good form as he posted a flawless opening nine-under-par 63 at the year’s unofficial fifth major.
With soft greens, low winds and balmy spring temperatures the order of the day, there was no shortage of low scoring on Thursday.
Day’s bogey-free, nine-birdie round equaled the course record first set by Fred Couples in 1992, and since matched by Greg Norman, Roberto Castro and Martin Kaymer.
The Australian hit all but three greens in regulation and averaged 319 yards off the tee. He gave himself one birdie opportunity after an other, and holed most of them, reaching the turn in four under and picking up five more shots on the way home – including a closing birdie at the ninth after this beautiful third shot:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 12, 2016
“Shooting 63 was great today,” Day said after his round. “I can’t really recall the last time I hit the ball as well as I did today and then also putting as well as I did. Everything kind of just clicked today and I shot a good score.”
The Australian doesn’t have the best record at Sawgrass – last year, he missed the cut after a second-round 81. But that looks set to change.
“I haven’t had the greatest finishes here at The Players Championship,” he said earlier in the week. “I feel a lot more prepared this year than I ever have in my career coming into this event. So I’m hoping that is a little bit of a different result this year.”
“There’s a lot of guys at 7 under par right now and a lot of guys that are going off the afternoon tee time that can definitely shoot that score as well,” he added.
Rose was in excellent form as he made six birdies, a bogey and an eagle at the par-five 16th during his round of 65. Lowry too notched up six birdies and an eagle at the par-five 11th.
Less fortunate on the day was Spieth. Playing his first competitive round since his infamous Masters meltdown last month, Spieth had to settle for a level-par 72.
The American made a slow start and took the turn in 36 before appearing to find his groove on his closing nine with a hat-trick of birdies from the second to fourth. However, consecutive bogeys followed at the fifth and sixth before he made a birdie at the seventh. The day would not end well for the world number two though, as he closed with a double-bogey at the par-five ninth.
Fowler notched up two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, and moved to three under when he started the back nine with two birdies. However, a bogey at the 14h and a double bogey at the par-four 18th left him nine strokes adrift of the lead.