McIlroy, Clark and Schauffele tied at The Players


Rory McIlroy, Wyndham Clark and Xander Schauffele share the lead at 7-under par when the first round of The Players Championship was suspended by darkness on Thursday.

Nine players will complete the round on Friday morning, when the second round will begin as scheduled.

Playing in the early wave, both McIlroy and Schauffele took advantage of soft greens and light winds to card opening 65s at TPC Sawgrass, although they did it in distinctly different fashions.

McIlroy recorded 10 birdies, the most he has recorded in 41 career rounds at TPC Sawgrass. The Northern Irishman reached eight under through 15 holes before finding the water left with his drive on the par-4 seventh hole, going on to record a double bogey.

McIlroy made up one of the strokes with a birdie on his final hole of the day at the par-5 ninth. Along with the 10 birdies and the double, he had a lone bogey and just six pars on his scorecard while finding the water twice.

"Much, much improved on the approach play today, which was nice to see," McIlroy told reporters, adding that he chose to "grind" on the range rather than taking Monday off following a final-round 76 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "I needed to clean up the technique a little bit, needed to clean up some things. Honestly, just needed to put the time in."

Schauffele's bogey-less card was mundane by contrast with seven birdies and 11 pars. He was happy to be playing in the morning, with the wind starting to pick up as the afternoon wave teed off.

"I wouldn't want to re-hit a few of those shots today, I can tell you that much," said Schauffele, who had his first score of 65 or lower and first bogey-free score in 15 career rounds at The Players. "I definitely need to clean it up."

Clark, the 2023 US Open champion and a winner this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, bracketed one bogey at the par-4 No. 4 with eight birdies, carding a 33 on the front nine and 32 on the back, including 14-foot birdie putt on No. 17.

Canada's Nick Taylor recorded six birdies in a bogey-free round to finish one stroke in back of McIlroy, Schauffele and Clark. England's Matt Fitzpatrick also is at 6 under, with his round including an eagle at the par-5 No. 16.

Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who entered the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time this week, eagled two of the four par-5s en route to a 5-under 67 in his first round at The Players. He added a pair of birdies against a lone bogey.

New Zealand's Ryan Fox hit the first hole-in-one of the week, recording just the 14th ace in the history of the event at the famed par-3 17th hole. Fox, who sank the shot from 124 yards for his first career ace in his 472nd par 3 on the PGA Tour, also made eagle at No.16, becoming the first player with consecutive eagles on any two holes at The Players since records have been kept in 1983.

"It's such an iconic hole, and it's an intimidating shot," Fox said. "I don't care who you are. You get up there, most of the crowd probably either wants you to make a 1 or hit it in the water, so I'm glad to be on the right side of it in that respect."

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, attempting the first successful defense at The Players, opened with a 5-under 67 and is tied for sixth. Scheffler rebounded from an opening bogey at No.1 with three straight birdies, and also birdied Nos.10, 11 and 16.

"It felt fairly stress free," Scheffler said. "I had the really good par there on 18. Outside of the start, I played a lot of really good golf. It's nice to only have one bogey around this place and, hopefully, continue to do more of that the next few days."

McIlroy downplayed what appeared to be a disagreement with playing partner Jordan Spieth about where McIlroy's drive crossed into the water.

"I think Jordan was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing," McIlroy said when asked if Spieth's actions were needless. "I was pretty sure that my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It's so hard, right, because there was no TV evidence. I was adamant. But I think, again, he was just trying to make sure that I was going to do the right thing.

"If anything, I was being conservative with it. I think at the end of the day, we're all trying to protect ourselves, protect the field, as well. I wouldn't say it was needless. I think he was just trying to make sure that what happened was the right thing."

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