Players Championship 2021: Sergio Garcia Holds 2-Stroke Lead After Round 1

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, lines up a putt on the fifth hole during the first round of the The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Sergio Garcia first won The Players Championship in 2008. He's on the prowl for a second.

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. 

PGA TOUR Communications @PGATOURComms

The first round of THE PLAYERS Championship was suspended due to darkness at 6:32 p.m. ET. Players who have not finished their rounds will resume Friday at 7:30 a.m. The second round will begin as scheduled at 6:45 a.m. Friday.

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: 


In 76 career rounds at TPC Sawgrass, @TheSergioGarcia is 33-under on the 9th hole. He ends on an eagle and leads by two. https://t.co/KXaNTZSRDo

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

Today was Sergio Garcia's 25th career round in the 60s at @THEPLAYERSChamp - most of any player all-time.

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

2 eagles today for Sergio Garcia - the first time he has done that in a PGA Tour round in more than 9 years. Last instance was 2012 at Riviera.

"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. 

Neil McLeman @NeilMcLeman

A month before his latest bid to win the @TheMasters Rory McIlroy starts #theplayerschampionship with a 79. He said: "You're trying to figure it out but you still know you're not really sure where the shots are coming from"

"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. 


No. 17 strikes again. Ben An records an 11 on the island green. That's the second-highest score ever on the 17th in the ShotLink era. https://t.co/1nZ8a6HvY4


The anatomy of an 11.

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:


Absolute carnage on No. 17 today. 🤯 31 water balls ... so far. https://t.co/zDF0OmxQu6

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.