Garcia makes hole-in-one at Players' famed island-green 17th

- Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes played bogey-free in his debut at The Players Championship and shot 5-under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt, who made a pair of eagles on the back nine in his round of 67.

The world number three has recorded just one top-10 finish in 2017 and has fallen more than five points behind world number one Dustin Johnson in the rankings, although his form has been affected by his mother's battle with lung cancer.

Hughes had only played 36 total holes on the Stadium Course - all in practice this week - before teeing it up on Thursday afternoon.

He told reporters: "I've been struggling with it a bit this week, and I sort of felt it for the first time on Sunday". McGirt followed that up with another eagle on the 16th after a lovely second shot got him to within 10 feet of the cup.

And just to balance affairs, two past champions from Australia, Jason Day and Adam Scott, had the lead and the tournament firmly in hand during their rounds, only to let it slip from their grasp with loose shots to fall back in the pack.

The 27-year-old Londoner, who won five tournaments in succession on the Alps Tour last season and six events in total, started on the back nine and picked up shots on the 10th, 12th, 13th and 16th to reach the turn in 33. It wasn't just any hole-in-one either. - The Players Championship attracts the strongest and deepest field in golf.

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 a year ago.

He said he knew Sawgrass from junior golf, and in hitting his first 17 greens in regulation, he played like it. Cantlay was also one of the few who tried to drive the green at the 305-yard, par-4 12th hole.

In fact, after his tee shot made a splash Willett moved to the "drop zone" and proceeded to put his third shot also in the water. I know I can play it really well if I play it smart, and I think I've just been trying to do a little too much the last couple years. "But, yeah, there's so many unknowns because we don't even know, unless you get an image taken of it and you know exactly what's going on you don't know, so just making sure that the tissue around it is as loose as it possibly can be and at least the warm weather helps keep it not stiffened up". The ball came straight left off the putter, missing the hole and leaving another 1-and-a-half feet coming back for double bogey. "Overall it was okay; I can't believe I'm only five off the lead and I can go out tomorrow morning, hopefully post a good score and get myself right back into the tournament".

Scott's was the most dramatic stumble - finding the water at the 17th, moments after playing partner Sergio Garcia aced the famous island green par-3.

"Kind of nearly feel like you steal two when you birdie both the par-3s on the front", said McGirt. I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was four-over after six (holes).

  • Julie Sanders