LOS ANGELES • Jason Day lived up to his status as the world's No. 1 golfer as he charged into a two-shot lead with a record-tying nine-under 63 in Thursday's opening round of the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Taking advantage of a receptive lay-out at the TPC Sawgrass with very little rough and barely a breath of wind early on a sun-drenched day ripe for low scoring, the long-hitting Australian piled up nine birdies in a bogey-free display.
Though he rued a missed birdie opportunity at the par-three eighth, his penultimate hole, he picked up five shots over the closing stretch to become just the fifth player to card a 63 at the event regarded as the unofficial fifth Major.
"I played solid from tee to green and I was very confident with my putter," Day told Golf Channel after finishing two ahead of Americans Cameron Tringale, Bill Haas and Brendan Steele, England's Justin Rose and Ireland's Shane Lowry.
"Just got things going. Unfortunately it didn't go in on No. 8," he said of a narrow miss with a 40-foot putt at the eighth that would have given him a birdie-birdie-birdie finish.
"I really wanted to hole that putt to then try and give myself a birdie on No. 9 to beat the record but I will take tying the course record."
PGA Championship winner Day, who has long coveted a first Players title to add to his already impressive golfing resume, felt that fatigue had helped his on-course focus.
"It's been a long week because it's been hot and I just felt really tired for some reason," said the 28-year-old Australian.
"That kind of distracted me from anything else. The scores here are so low. When you shoot a nine-under-par round, you expect - especially on this course - to have a decent lead. I've got only a two-shot lead and there's a slew of guys that are at seven under and at six and five (under)."
World No. 2 Jordan Spieth double-bogeyed his final hole for a 72.
He later insisted his score did not appropriately represent his performance. "I really only had two bad swings today," he said. "I'm hitting the ball great."
The late starters had to cope with strengthening winds in the afternoon as American Rickie Fowler and Northern Irish world No. 3 Rory McIlroy both opened with 72s.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
Day 3: StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 2am