India’s ace golfer Anirban Lahiri had an extremely rough opening round to struggle to six-over 78 at the Players Championship here. Not just Lahiri, many big names also struggled in the first round at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Lahiri, who missed four putts inside seven to 10 feet and did not have much luck on the greens now need a very low score in the next round to make his second cut in five starts at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. On a day when 35 golf balls found their way into the water at the Island Green on 17th, Lahiri also had a trip into the water. After a drop, he hit to 18 feet, missed the putt and holed out for a double bogey.
Sergio Garcia (seven-under 65) continued to show how comfortable he is at The Stadium Course as he played his par-5s superbly and was five-under with a pair of eagles and a birdie. Lahiri starting on 10th, had four bogeys in first six holes and then found his first birdie when he holed in 26 feet on Par-5 16th. A double on the Island green was followed by a bogey on 18th. On his second nine, he was steady with one bogey on Par-4 fifth and birdied Par-5 ninth.
Garcia rounded off a seven-under 65 with an 18-foot eagle at the last to give him a two-shot lead over Brian Harman (67). Garcia started on the back nine and went birdie-birdie-eagle over his final three holes for a closing 32. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Corey Conners and 2019 Open winner, Shane Lowry were tied third at 68 while the ageless Lee Westwood, who was runner-up last week, was tied sixth with five others, including Bryson DeChambeau at 69.
Garcia has not missed a cut in nearly 20 years here and won in 2008, besides being solo second in 2007 and tied second in 2015 at the Peter Dye course. He came in with 24 career rounds in the 60s and this was his 25th. Reigning champion Rory McIlroy, who won the last edition of this event in 2019, also struggled on his way to a first-round 79. He started with a double-bogey at the first and then the 2019 FedExCup champion followed with bogey at the 13th before the wheels came off with a quadruple-bogey at the par-4 18th, where McIlroy twice found the water to the left.
Apart from McIlroy, other big names who found the going tough were past champion Henrik Stenson posted (13-over 85) and Tony Finau, ranked No. 7 in the FedExCup standings, opened with a 6-over 78.