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Players Championship 2020: Hideki Matsuyama Shoots Record-Tying 63 in Round 1

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 13, 2020

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 12: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan watches his drive on the 11th hole during the first round of The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2020 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The 2020 Players Championship began Thursday, with Hideki Matsuyama taking control. 

Matsuyama holds a two-shot lead thanks to a nine-under-par performance. The 28-year-old carded a 63, his lowest single-round score in any event since the final round at the BMW Championship last August. He also became the ninth player in the history of this event to reach a score of 63:

PGA TOUR Communications @PGATOURComms

Hideki Matsuyama eagles the par-5 ninth, his 18th hole of the day, to shoot a 9-under 63 and tie the course record. This is the ninth 63 in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship. Most recently, Webb Simpson (R2) and Brooks (R4) shot 63 in 2018.

Harris English, Si Woo Kim and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are tied for second place with scores of seven under par. 

The first round was halted because of darkness with seven players still on the course at in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. They were all on their 17th hole, so there shouldn't be a long delay to begin the second round Friday. 

Here's the top of the leaderboard from TPC at Sawgrass, via PGATour.com:

1. Hideki Matsuyama (-9)

T2. Harris English (-7)

T2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-7)

T2. Si Woo Kim (-7)

T5. Patrick Cantlay (-5)

T5. Marc Leishman (-5)

Matsuyama finished with a 63 thanks to a 25-foot eagle putt on his final hole:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

That's how you finish. 🦅 An eagle to tie the course record for Hideki Matsuyama. #QuickHits https://t.co/E6faRFR1s3

Before getting to that final hole, Matsuyama started his day on the back nine with four straight birdies. The Japanese star did have one blip on the radar with a bogey on No. 16, but he got back on track after making the turn. 

Over his final nine holes, Matsuyama had four birdies and that eagle. The green was where he did most of his damage, gaining 4.27 strokes putting. 

Putting is an element of Matsuyama's game that has been missing all season. He entered Thursday ranked 198th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained with the putter (-.535).

Jason Sobel @JasonSobelTAN

Hideki Matsuyama opens with 63 and currently LEADS THE FIELD IN STROKES GAINED PUTTING. Which is, uh, pretty much the craziest news we've heard in weeks.

Per Sean Martin of PGATour.com, Matsuyama's first-round performance bodes well for him:

As impressive as Matsuyama's eagle was, Viktor Hovland had the best putt of the day with an eagle of his own from 68 feet away on No. 11:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

6️⃣8️⃣ feet for eagle. 🦅 Incredible putt from Viktor Hovland. #QuickHits https://t.co/nFLTWND56H

Hovland's four-under 68 has him tied with 14 other players for seventh place heading into the second round. 

There figures to be plenty of competition challenging Matsuyama for the top spot over the next three rounds. Low scores were easy to come by, with six players shooting 67 or better and 36 players breaking 70. 

English, Kim and Bezuidenhout are in the best position to catch Matsuyama. Each man carded matching scores of 65, with Bezuidenhout making it through all 18 holes with no bogeys. 

Kim overcame a bogey on his 15th hole by recording birdies on two of his final three holes to finish as part of the three-way tie for second place. 

Friday will be a very different type of day on the course. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced fans won't be permitted to attend events because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Fans were in attendance during the first round, but weren't permitted to shake hands or receive souvenirs from players. 

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