Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played their best first round Thursday in The Players Championship.
That wasn’t enough to catch Roberto Castro, who had never played the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and made a debut he won’t soon forget.
Castro hit shots into tap-in range on the famed 17th and 18th holes on his way to a 9-under 63 in perfect scoring conditions in the morning. He tied the course record held by Seattle native Fred Couples and Greg Norman, and it gave him a three-shot lead — the largest 18-hole margin in 21 years at Sawgrass — over McIlroy and Zach Johnson.
“I hit it close a lot,” said Castro, making it sound as easy as it looked.
Woods had to work harder in the afternoon, when a breeze arrived. Still, he was on the cusp of his first bogey-free round in 16 years at The Players until his 8-iron from 200 yards went over the 18th green and he flubbed his chip. The bogey gave him a 67, the first time he has broken 70 in the opening round at Sawgrass.
“It was a day that I felt I had to shoot something in the 60s,” Woods said. “Most of the guys were under par in the morning session.”
Half of those who played early broke par, a rarity at this tournament.
The first round featured McIlroy breaking par for the first time at Sawgrass, 17 balls in the water around the island-green 17th, and 33 rounds in the 60s.
Woods, Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer shot 67, the lowest rounds among those who played late.
Today, they get the morning conditions.
PGA Tour veteran Vijay Singh, who sued the tour this week for “public humiliation and ridicule” in the wake of his admission that he used deer antler spray, played a round of 2-over 74 in the first round at his home course.
Though he issued a short statement, he said nothing and gave no visible reaction to fans, who were both supportive and taunting.
A fan was clearly visible on the first tee wearing felt antlers.
“He won’t talk to the press, so I thought maybe I could get a reaction out of him,” said Jacksonville, Fla., resident Jim Kavanagh.
About a dozen fans followed Singh throughout, one woman shouting, “We don’t care what the PGA Tour says. We support Vijay.”
Singh’s statement said: “I am proud of my achievement, my work ethic and the way I live my life.”