Jason Day of Australia hits from the sixth tee during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH - The 28-year-old Australian was in such control that he putted for birdie on every hole
Jason Day created a far better memory on Thursday than his last round at the TPC Sawgrass. Not only was he 18 shots better, the world's No. 1 player tied the course record with a 9-under 63 that gave him a two-shot lead in The Players Championship.
In a game that can defy logic, and on a course that can be perplexing, Day had a simple explanation for bouncing back from last year's 81.
"I'm playing a lot better than I was last year," he said.
The 28-year-old Australian was in such control that he putted for birdie on every hole. He made half of them, and his longest par putt was 30 inches.
"Tee to green was pretty decent - was actually really good - and then once I got on the green, I felt like I could hole everything," he said.
It helped that there was hardly any wind on a steaming morning that made Sawgrass more vulnerable than usual.
The wind began to increase in the afternoon and it made a big difference. Of the 40 rounds in the 60s, 29 of those were in the morning. Boo Weekley had the low score in the afternoon at 66. The 40 rounds in the 60s and 82 rounds under par were the most for an opening round since 1993 at The Players.
"I don't know what the guys were doing out there this morning, but I don't think we saw the same golf course this afternoon," Rory McIlroy said after a 72. "It was a little firmer, the wind got up a little bit and those guys made the course look awfully easy this morning."
Day had only the fifth round of 63 at the Stadium Course in the 35 years of The Players Championship.
Shane Lowry became the first player to shoot 29 on the back nine. He was in the group at 65 that included Justin Rose and Bill Haas. Ernie Els, who just last month started the Masters with a six-putt quintuple bogey, ran off six birdies and an eagle to lead the group at 66.
Not everyone took advantage of the morning, including Jordan Spieth.
Spieth, in his first tournament since he lost a five-shot lead on the back nine at Augusta National, played alongside Day and labored his way to a 72. Spieth says he has put the Masters behind him. Now he has to get rid of the poor finishes.
With three straight birdies, he was trying to at least stay in Day's neighborhood. Then Spieth made bogeys on two straight holes, answered with a birdie, and then ended his round of 72 with a double bogey by taking five shots to get up-and-down from a bunker behind the green on the par-5 ninth.
"I hit it seven times," Spieth said. "I hit two fantastic shots, and then not really sure after that."
Masters champion Danny Willett opened with a 70 in his first competition since slipping on the green jacket.
Rose looked at the pin positions and had a good feeling, especially on the island-green 17th. It was at the front, with a ridge serving as a backboard. By mid-afternoon, only four shots found the water. And with hardly any wind and greens still moderately soft, good scores were available.