Players Championship 2019: Tommy Fleetwood, Keegan Bradley Lead After Round 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2019

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 14: Tommy Fleetwood of England reacts after a putt on the ninth green during the first round of The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 14, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley sit tied atop the leaderboard of the 2019 Players Championship after they put together seven-under 65s during Thursday's opening round at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Byeong Hun An and Brian Harman are a shot back at six under, while Rory McIlroy, Vaughn Taylor and Ryan Moore own a share of fifth at five under.  

Fleetwood was only one under on the back nine and didn't look to be a threat as he made the turn. Then he reeled off six birdies over his final nine holes. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he carded the lowest opening-round score of his PGA Tour career.

Consistency was the key to Fleetwood's success, as he hit 10 of 14 fairways and reached 16 greens in regulation, per PGATour.com.

"If you're in the fairway all the time, the course feels very, very different, and it's a massive key around here, and then I just started picking a few shots up, and then you get on a run like seven, eight and nine, and it feels great after that," he said, per Sky Sports' Keith Jackson

Bradley was the opposite. He started strong and faded as the day wore on.

Through his first 10 holes, Bradley had five birdies, an eagle and a bogey to put him at six under. But he was unable to put any distance between himself and Fleetwood from there, earning just one more birdie over the remainder of his round.

Not only is Moore within striking distance of the tourney leaders, but he also delivered one of Thursday's best moments. His tee shot on No. 17 hit the flagstick and found the bottom of the cup for a hole-in-one on the famed island green.

Moore's round mimicked Bradley's. A birdie on No. 3 moved him to six under and gave him a great shot at ending the day in a three-way tie for first place. Instead he bogeyed No. 4 and was stuck at five under for the rest of the round.

Tiger Woods returned for his first event since the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. He was at even par before embarking on an up-and-down back nine. Each time he began building momentum, the 14-time major champion suffered a setback.

He birdied No. 10 before bogeying No. 11. A bogey on the 14th hole followed back-to-back birdies. He also closed out with a bogey on the final hole after birdieing the previous two.

At two under, Woods has a lot of work ahead if he's to make a run at the Players Championship title. Defending champion Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Bryson DeChambeau join him in a tie for 35th.

Jordan Spieth will be lucky to continue playing through the weekend. He has struggled mightily at TPC Sawgrass in recent years, finishing tied for 41st in 2018 after two missed cuts the previous two years. Spieth is four over through 18 holes, which puts him in jeopardy of missing the cut once again.

Phil Mickelson (two over), Bubba Watson (even par), Brooks Koepka (even par), Rickie Fowler (two over), Francesco Molinari (even par) and Justin Rose (two over) also find themselves in danger of falling on the wrong side of the cut line.

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