Garcia shot a seven-under 65 on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, taking a two-stroke lead in the clubhouse as play was suspended because of darkness. Brian Harman (-5) and three players at four under—Matthew Fitzpatrick, Corey Conners and Shane Lowry—are nipping at his heels.
The majority of the field was able to get in a full round before play was halted.
Garcia had just one poor hole, a bogey on No. 1. He more than made up for it with four birdies and two eagles, capping off his best opening round at The Players Championship in his career:
"I've always said it, Valderrama and this course are some of my top favourite ones and for some reason it just kind of fits my eye," he told reporters after his fantastic round. "I see what I want to do pretty much every hole and then it's a matter of doing it, but definitely I feel more comfortable and I've done well here. So all those things help."
Things didn't go so well for his playing partner, defending champion Rory McIlroy, who shot a seven-over 79 and finds himself 14 strokes off the lead. It seems unlikely that the Players Championship will have a back-to-back champion this year.
"I don't know what the word is or how to describe it, but just a little dejected," McIlroy told reporters after his round. "I need something, I need a spark, I need something and I just don't seem to have it."
But outside of Henrik Stenson (+13), nobody had a rougher day than Byeong Hun An, who finished +11 after posting an 11 on the par-three 17.
Take away the 17th, and An shot a respectable three over. One hole can ruin an afternoon. And on Thursday, No. 17 wreaked havoc on the field:
As for other notable finishers, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are all within striking distance at two under, while Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas posted solid rounds at one under and Dustin Johnson is one over after Thursday's play.
All of them are looking up at Garcia, who is going to be tough to catch if can maintain his form in Round 1.