Players Championship: Sheffield's Danny Willett withdraws from tournament citing back injury

A bogey on the final hole gave him a 5-under 67 on a steamy morning at the TPC Sawgrass, and a one-shot lead among the early starters.

After getting engaged in January, Sergio Garcia won his first major at The Masters in April and on Thursday, he became just the eighth person to hit a hole-in-one at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass during The Players Championship.

Making his first start since claiming a maiden Major title at Augusta National, Garcia had been four over par for his first six holes at Sawgrass after four-putting the fifth, the same hole he six-putted in the third round past year.

Scott, the 2004 victor at golf's unofficial "fifth major", had stormed to a flawless six-under par through 15 holes to be outright leader before finding water on the 17th and 18th holes and finishing with two straight double bogeys.

England's Ian Poulter was a shot further back with three holes to play as he looked to make the most of retaining his PGA Tour card after fellow professional Brian Gay alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing on major medical extensions.

J.B. Holmes, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Chez Reavie share second.

Defending champion Jason Day also stumbled late on as he opened with the same score world No 1 Dustin Johnson bemoaned some back luck in his 71.

"Today for the most part I was okay".

"That's just kind of how my day went. And I overreacted probably a bit, but all in all, you just don't see that very often".

Adam Scott's watery grave was perhaps the costliest as the 2004 PLAYERS champion arrived at the tee at 6 under and in the outright lead.

Hughes, who survived a five-way playoff to win at Sea Island, doesn't even have that body of work behind him. "I feel like this is one of those places that every time I play, it only frustrates me more".

Ulsterman Graeme McDowell was having more luck, sitting on two under through 15 holes of his second round.

"I had a good birdie on 7 there, but 11 I had 250 front I think 279 hole, so I didn't think I could really hit 3-wood over the green".

Hughes told members of the media after his round that he was pleased with his performance, especially going bogey-free on a course that will test all of a golfer's skills.

After salvaging a 1-under 71 on Friday, he said the pain was in about the same spot.

"I've been struggling with it a bit this week, sort of felt it for the first time on Sunday", said McIlroy, who was married last month in Ireland and is playing his first tournament since the Masters.

"I just kind of hung in there", he said. "The win a year ago was huge for my confidence. kind of proved to myself that, hey, I can play golf at the major championship level".

  • Julie Sanders