The rain and threat of thunderstorms at TPC Sawgrass saw the opening day of The Players Championship ruined as more than half the field failed to complete their first rounds.
That included Rory McIlroy and Seamus Power, who are both level-par through the second and first holes respectively at the close of play due to darkness, but Shane Lowry managed to reach the clubhouse, however he is one-over already.
The Clara man had been two-under after seven holes of his round, but a run of three consecutive bogeys on his back-nine led to him falling down the leaderboard, with two birdies in his last three holes managing to get him back up into an early share of 99th.
That’s seven shots off the lead held by Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Hoge, the Englishman firing seven birdies and one bogey in a six-under 66 to set the clubhouse lead, with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner matching him just before the horn blew.
The pair took advantage of soft conditions and placing at TPC Sawgrass that lend themselves to scoring and hold a one-shot lead over Kramer Hickok, Joaquin Niemann, Keith Mitchell and Anirban Lahiri, all of whom completed their first rounds.
But it was a less than ideal situation for all involved, tee times pushed back an hour due to wet conditions early in the day before they then had to deal with a five-hour delay due to the threat of thunderstorms in the late morning.
With poor weather conditions due to roll in on Friday, too, it looks likely that it will be another weather-affected day and there are concerns the tournament may already be set for either a Monday finish or potentially be shortened to 54 holes.
However, that is a concern that will be addressed later, with play scheduled to get back underway at 12:15pm on Friday.
McIlroy will resume on the par-three third tee after playing his first two holes in bogey-par, while Power had a routine par at the first to at least get on the course on Thursday.
Lowry, on the other hand, could have a very long wait to get back on the course having returned to the scorer’s hut after a one-over 73 on the Stadium Course that threatened to be both much better and much worse.
The former Open champion brought a fair bit of momentum into this event having finished second at the Honda Classic two weeks ago and he looked to be off to a hot start when he two-putt birdied the par-five 11th – his second hole – and added another birdie at the par-five 16th.
But then Lowry ran into trouble. An overly cautious drive on the 18th saw him chip out sideways and take his first bogey of the day, and then he dropped back to level-par with a three-putt bogey at the first.
With his momentum halted, he then found the water with his approach at the par-four fourth – a good recovery shot the only reason he saved a bogey – and he compounded that by failing to get up-and-down at the fifth and sixth, leading to two more dropped shots.
Now three-over and seemingly already out of the tournament, Lowry at least dragged himself back up the leaderboard in the latter part of his round, a fine approach at the par-four seventh leading to a kick-in birdie and then he took advantage of the par-five ninth to close with another birdie.
At one-over, he is a long way off the leaders, but he at least has something to hold onto moving into his second round, whenever it will be played.
In contrast, Fleetwood will be thrilled with how he managed the rain delay as he played both nines in three-under on his way to a 66 that has him in a share of the early lead alongside Hoge.
The European Ryder Cup star birdied three of the four par-fives on the Pete Dye course, while the highlight of his round was a superb chip-in for birdie at the tricky 18th – his ninth hole of the day.
“It’s a great first day. I’m chuffed to be in on that score. I felt like I drove the ball well aside from a couple, and I felt like I chipped and putted great. For sure, like that was the most I could have got out of the round. So days like that are very, very pleasing,” said Fleetwood.
“I think there’s things that I can do better. So I’ll try to do that over the next few days. Again, I’m not going to complain about the day or anything. I’ll just move on and be happy with a 66.”
Hoge joined him at six-under with an eagle, five birdies and a bogey in his round, emerging from the rain delay a new man as he played his back nine – the front nine – in just 31 strokes.
Their lead is one over the quartet of Hickok, Niemann, Mitchell and Lahiri, while Harold Varner III will rue a costly trip around the final two holes at the Stadium Course as he stood on the 17th tee seven-under but found the water and took a triple-bogey, then bogeyed the last to finish three-under.
- Full scoring HERE