Big names struggle at Players Championship

The tournament favourites struggled on the opening day of the Players Championship after William McGirt and Mackenzie Hughes secured the joint first round lead.

Neither of the world’s top two players, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, were able to threaten the leaderboard summit in Florida, while Masters winner Sergio Garcia also endured a tough day, despite a stunning hole-in-one on the 17th.

Defending champion Jason Day, 2015 winner Rickie Fowler and another former title holder Adam Scott all fell away on the home straight after promising starts.

Scott was on course to take the lead, but then double-bogeyed the final two holes, while Day bogeyed three of his last four holes. The pair joined Fowler in finishing on two under par – three shots adrift of pacesetters McGirt and Hughes.

McGirt produced stunning eagles on both 11 and the 16th, while Canada’s Hughes sank five birdies in a bogey-free round.

“It was a matter of having a good day,” said McGirt.

“I don’t know that you can really learn this golf course, because the thing with this place is you hit one that lands four, five feet off the putting surface, there’s no telling what’s going to happen to it.”

Hughes, who only won his first Tour title last year added: “It wasn’t perfect golf, but I managed it well and made a few nice saves when I needed to and made a few nice putts, so it was a good day.”

A group of four players are a shot adrift of McGirt and Hughes – Alex Noren, JB Holmes, Chez Reavie and top prospect Jon Rahm.

Johnson carded a one-under par round of 71, while both Garcia and McIlroy finished on one over.