World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was among the pack of household names to make an early break at the 2019 Players Championship on Thursday, with Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm also off to strong starts.
Billy Horschel led a raft of American hopefuls battling for the leaderboard's summit early on, as Xander Schauffele, Michael Thompson and Brandon Harkins were also contending. South Korean Byeong-hun An impressed in the opening stages and shared a joint-lead at three under after his first nine holes.
The first round got under way at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where a long list of the world's best golfers have been tempted to compete for their share of a $12.5 million (£9.5 million) prize pot. Per Pat Ralph of Golf.com, the tournament's purse is the biggest in the sport's history.
Johnson got off to a flying start in Florida and birdied two of his first three holes to move within reach of the leaders. McIlroy, Garcia and Rahm each birdied the 11th and 12th holes to stay tightly packed together in the standings.
Thursday's Early Leaderboard
1. Billy Horschel: -4 (Thru 7)
T1. Byeong-hun An: -4 (Thru 11)
T3. Michael Thompson: -3 (Thru 12)
T3. Bryson DeChambeau: -3 (Thru 7)
T3. Brandon Harkins: -3 (Thru 5)
T3. Brendan Steele: -3 (Thru 9)
T7. Dustin Johnson: -2 (Thru 6)
T7. Jon Rahm: -2 (Thru 6)
T7. Sergio Garcia: -2 (Thru 6)
T7. Rory McIlroy: -2 (Thru 6)
Visit PGATour.com to see the full leaderboard.
None of Thursday's early beginners got off to a brighter start than Horschel, who sunk three birdies in a row to ignite his seventh Players Championship in a fashion he will be hoping to maintain.
Florida-based sports writer Clayton Freeman highlighted the fast start of Horschel, who started on the 10th hole and added a fourth birdie of the morning on 15 to become the outright leader for the first time:
Johnson has entered this competition hoping to build on the momentum gained from his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February, and he took no time in getting out of the blocks at the Stadium Course.
The American teed off at the 10th with a 300-yard opening drive before making up the yardage to the green, clearing up from 10 feet out to mark a promising start, as PGA Tour shared:
Like Horschel, McIlroy, Rahm and Garcia also saved shots on the 12th and 13th holes in what proved a generous section for some of the elite.
Garcia won this competition in 2008 and has also finished as a runner-up on two occasions (2007, 2015), giving him the edge in experience playing at Ponte Vedra.
Speaking of experience, the stars didn't align for Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson during the early exchanges.
Englishman Rose was clean in his approach and began with six pars in succession, while Mickelson and Watson each had one birdie and one bogey apiece:
Justin Thomas showed promise at day's start and clinched three birdies in succession, but back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes temporarily sent him back down the leaderboard.
Two-time Players Championship winner Tiger Woods and defending champion Webb Simpson are among those due to get their tournaments under way later on Thursday.