Players Championship 2019 live blog: Tiger Woods opens with two-under-par 70 after wild back nine at TPC Sawgrass

March 14, 2019

Mike Ehrmann

The opening round of the Players, or, THE PLAYERS Championship is officially underway here at TPC Sawgrass and scoring conditions are great with big names like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, and Justin Thomas all off to quick starts. In the afternoon wave, Tiger Woods leads the way, and he'll be joined by Patrick Reed and defending champion Webb Simpson on the first tee at 1:27 p.m. Jason Day will tee off 20 minutes later with Tony Finau and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Francesco Molinari. Just behind them will be Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, who looks to snap out of a lengthy slump. The three-time major champion has finished no higher than T-35 in seven events this season.

It should be an action-packed day at THE PLAYERS, the fifth (unofficial) major. Keep it right here in our live blog for all the latest updates.

6:41 p.m.: Tiger avoids the water on 18, but he can't avoid a closing bogey. A perfect 5-wood off the tee left what he thought was a perfect 8-iron, but it bounced just over the back of the green. From there, Tiger chipped to four feet, but jammed his par putt through the break. Woods shoots a wild two-under-par 34 on the back nine that included only one par. Woods winds up shooting 70, the same as playing partner Webb Simpson, and one shot worse than the third member of their group, Patrick Reed.

"It was tricky out there today," Woods told Golf Channel's Steve Sands. Woods also said he thought he putted well and in regards to his neck? "The neck's fine. I just wish that putt would have gone in on the last."

On the bright side, Tiger's two-under 70 is still tied for his second-best opening round ever at the Players. However, he'll enter Friday five shots behind Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley. Here's a look at the entire leader board.

6:27 p.m.: Keegan Bradley had a chance to take the solo lead on the par-5 ninth, but after laying up on his second, he hit his third to 18 feet and missed the putt. Still, he'll take an opening 65 that will have him tied with Tommy Fleetwood heading into Day 2.

6:21 p.m.: BANG! Tiger converts the 10-foot birdie putt on No. 17 as the crowd erupts. That gets him to three under for the first time today. It was dangerous tee shot, but he took advantage of staying dry.

Now he'll look to stay dry for one more hole and get into the house with just his second opening round in the 60s of his career at the Players.

6:15 p.m.: Phewwwww. Tiger juuuuuuust clears the pond on 17 with his wedge. He'll now have a great look at birdie, but that was dicey. Reed and Simpson weren't nearly as flirtatious. All three will have good birdie opportunities.

6:11 p.m.: For the first time all round, Tiger Woods birdies a par 5. The 16th hole also featured his first walk-and-twirl of the day after really liking his 5-wood approach that found the left side of the green. From there, he two-putted to get back to two under. Meanwhile, playing partner Patrick Reed chipped in for eagle to leapfrog his buddy to get to three under. And Webb Simpson also two-putted for birdie to get to two under. Onto 17. . .

5:55 p.m.: Keegan Bradley birdies the 7th hole to get to seven under and tie Tommy Fleetwood for the lead. Bradley was in contention last week at Bay Hill before struggling over the weekend. The 32-year-old broke a six-year winless drought at the BMW Championship in September.

5:51 p.m.: The 15th hole is another adventure for Tiger, but he manages par thanks to a huge break off the tee. Woods' drive went into the left trees, but bounced all the way across the fairway and into a bunker. From there, he found the green and nearly holed a long birdie putt. One under with TPC Sawgrass' famed closing three-hole stretch to go.

5:35 p.m.: Tiger's rollercoaster back nine continues on one of his least favorite holes. After hitting his tee shot a mile right, Woods gives a violent recoil from the rough and comes up about 30 yards short. He hits a decent pitch, but his par putt just misses on the low side. He now has three birdies and two bogeys on his first five holes of the back nine and is back to one under.

5:18 p.m.: We have some LIFE from Tiger Woods! After a decent tee shot on the par-3 13th, Woods rolls in a 25-footer for birdie to get to two under for the first time.

In other news, Ryan Moore makes the turn in 32 after that hole-in-one on 17 and adds a birdie at No. 1 to get to five under. He's two shots behind Tommy Fleetwood, who seems like he has held the lead since breakfast.

5:03 p.m.: After making a mess of the par-5 11th, Woods bounces back with birdie on the par-4 12th. Using 3-wood off the tee, Tiger found the right side of the green with a fade and two-putted from 33 feet. Back to red numbers with six holes to play.

4:47 p.m.: After a good wedge to about 10 feet below the hole, Woods misses his par attempt at No. 11. It's a particularly disappointing bogey after a decent drive on the gettable par 5. Woods falls back to even on the day, thanks in large part to him playing TPC Sawgrass' first three par 5s in one over.

4:40 p.m.: From an incredible shot to one of the worst shots you'll ever see, Tiger Woods just hit an absolute banana ball into the water on the 11th hole. Woods was going for the green in two, and, well, he didn't even come close. He's going to have to get up and down from about 100 yards to save par and stay one under.

4:35 p.m.: We interrupt this string of Tiger updates to let you know that Ryan Moore just made a HOLE-IN-ONE on 17! ON THE FLY!!! Just minutes after Emiliano Grillo doinked one off the flagstick there and nearly into the water, Moore's clanged off fiberglass and dropped for as spectacular of an ace as one could ever make. It's the ninth hole-in-one on No. 17 in Players history, but the third since 2016 when Willy Wilcox ended a 14-year drought. Sergio Garcia made one in 2017. Anyway, here's Moore's ace, which moved him to four under:

4:22 p.m.: Tiger drains an 18-footer for birdie to start his back nine and get into red numbers for the first time. The 14-time major champ was seen practicing his putting with Matt Killen earlier in the week, and whatever they were working on worked there. Woods hasn't played enough rounds to qualify, but his strokes gained putting of .168 would rank him 80th. Woods has a chance to build some momentum here with the par-5 11th followed by the drivable par-4 12th.

4:06 p.m.: Tiger misses the birdie opportunity at the ninth hole, meaning he'll make the turn at even-par. Tiger's swing has been in rhythm after getting through the first couple holes. He's hit some very solid iron shots over the past four to five holes, and made the nice birdie putt at 7.

If he keeps hitting his driver and iron shots so well, he'll continue to give himself opportunities. But he'll no doubt be disappointed he left an opportunity out there at 9.

3:59 p.m.: A nice 308-yard tee shot at the par-5 ninth set up Tiger to attack here. He gets most of his fairway-wood approach, hitting it to 275 yards, leaving him with a pitch up coming. He'll have just inside 10 feet for a potential birdie to get to red numbers for the first time all day.

3:40 p.m.: Tiger's putter continues to look excellent at the par-3 eighth hole. His tee shot came up just short of the green, leaving him needing to navigate 80 feet worth of green. That he did—he lagged it nicely up to two feet, which will leave him with a two-putt par to remain even par heading to the par-5 ninth.

3:29 p.m.: Bang! There's the first birdie of the day for Tiger, holing the 15-footer from below the hole after a great approach at the seventh hole. That gets Tiger back to even par. With the par-5 ninth hole coming in a few holes, Tiger will have a chance to build some momentum before he heads to the back nine. That was a great putt there—went in with some pace on a perfect read.

3:24 p.m.: Another hole, another solid approach shot from Tiger. For a third straight hole, Tiger will have a look at birdie—this one the closest yet. His second shot at the seventh hole comes to rest 15 feet from the hole. We'll see if Tiger can get back to level par.

3:18 p.m.: At the seventh, Tiger finds another fairway—this one a ripped driver that faded right into the middle of the fairway. It looks like Big Cat finally found his rhythm after two really poor tee shots to begin his round—in which he still managed to make pars. It's the lone blemish at the par-3 third hole, after his tee shot barely missed the green and rolled into a collection area, that leaves Tiger over-par.

3:15 p.m.: Oh boy: We have another puzzling rules situation in 2019. Harold Varner III was assessed a two-shot penalty for having equipment altered during his round after he cracked his driver on the practice range. We'll have more on it as we learn more information, but Varner was docked two strokes, giving him an opening-round 74.

3:13 p.m.: A great try by Tiger Woods, but his birdie look from 31 feet comes up just shy. He'll tap in for par and remain at 1-over through six holes.

3:07 p.m.: Another good look from the fairway for Tiger here at the sixth hole, and an average-at-best result for the 14-time major champion. From 139 yards, Tiger puts his approach to 31 feet. His playing partner, Patrick Reed, got fortunate with an approach that went through the trees and still found the putting surface. Both past Masters champions are +1 so far on the day.

2:57 p.m.: Tiger's best look of the day for birdie comes up shy at the fifth hole. His 21-footer comes up about a foot shy, so he'll settle for another par. That's currently T-97. Here's a leader board update:

Tommy Fleetwood -7 Byeong Hun An -6 Brian Harman -6 Rory McIlroy -5 Rory Sabbatini -4 Vaughn Taylor -4 J.T. Poston -4

2:35 p.m.: Tiger navigates the 35 feet nicely, lagging up to about 2 and a half feet and knocking in the par bid.

2:29 p.m.: We have our first fairway found for Tiger Woods at the fourth hole. He hits a nice controlled cut at the 391-yard fourth hole, so he'll have a chance here to get one back after dropping one at 3.

Bit of a disappointing second shot from Tiger, as he comes up short on his approach and just finds the front of the green. It won't be an easy par upcoming from 35 feet.

2:17 p.m.: Tiger holes the bogey putt at No. 3 to walk away with his first dropped shot. That came after the unlucky bounce on his tee shot, which followed two fortunate breaks on his opening tee shots at Nos. 1 and 2. We suppose we'll call that even for Big Cat.

2:11 p.m.: Really unfortunate break at the par-3 third shot now for Tiger. Talk about an eventful start to his round at TPC Sawgrass. Tiger's 9-iron from 176 yards justttt missed hopping up onto the green, and his ball rolled down into a collection area to the left. He had no chance to flight his ball over the greenside bunker in front of him, so Tiger has to essentially lay up with his second shot, just punching it onto the green. That leaves him with a 44-footer for par—he'll do well to get away with a bogey.

2:03 p.m.: The birdie chance for Tiger just misses to the right at No. 2. That would've been an unlikely birdie, though his approach third shot was rather good at the par 5. Again, he'll take the par after the second straight bad tee shot.

Meanwhile Dustin Johnson finished his round with a bogey at the ninth hole, really disappointing for him on the par 5. He ends with a 3-under 69, not too bad—but he'll feel he left at least one out there ending the way he did.

1:58 p.m.: Tiger plays a stellar third shot from about 150 yards to 10 feet behind the hole. After another poor tee shot, he'll have a decent look at birdie.

1:52 p.m.: We have more trouble off the tee for Tiger here at the second hole. Again, Tiger badly hooked his tee shot, this with a fairway wood in hand. It appears the 14-time major champion has gotten fortunate again with a kick out back toward the fairway. But that wasn't great. Tiger opens up with a case of the hooks.

That was an 189-yard tee shot from Tiger, with his fairway wood getting caught up in the trees to the left. Not great! He'll be forced to lay up with his second at this par 5.

1:40 p.m.: Tiger plays his wedge to 35 feet with a poor angle over on the left side. He'll have a doable two-putt upcoming for an opening par. And that's exactly how he starts his first round. He'll take it after that tee shot.

1:30 p.m.: Tiger Woods is on the course at TPC Sawgrass, hooking his opening tee shot let on the first hole. A nice kick off a spectator's ankle, it looked like, caused the ball to find the short rough on the left side, rather than the pine straw and potentially being blocked out on the left.

Tiger's playing with Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed. The afternoon conditions expect to be a little windier than the morning, calmer conditions, but it's still a beautiful day at Ponte Vedra Beach.

1:27 p.m.: Tommy Fleetwood is now atop the leaderboard alone, carding a lengthy 17-footer at the par-5 ninth hole to get 7-under. The Englishman made six birdies on his final nine alone on Thursday. What a way to finish his day.

The opening 65 is Fleetwood's lowest opening round in 47 first rounds on the PGA Tour. He's backing up his stellar play at Bay Hill—stellar stuff from Fleetwood.

1:20 p.m.: An errant tee shot from Rory at the par-4 sixth hole left him in a tough situation to save par. But he holed a nice six-footer for par after an OK pitch to stay at 5-under, one back with three more holes to go.

1:07 p.m.: Rory McIlroy just rolled in another birdie at the fifth hole to get with one of Tommy Fleetwood and Ben An. The Northern Irishman's putter is heating up—which is a bad sign for everybody else. Like we said below, Rory missed earlier birdies today of seven and four feet, proving just how well he's hitting it.

1:03 p.m.: We now have a tie at the top of the lead! Tommy Fleetwood just holed a 28-footer at the eighth hole to tie Ben An at 6-under. That's the first birdie at the 233-yard par 3 today.

Fleetwood has a par 5 to finish—so he might very well own the lead alone here shortly.

1:00 p.m.: The low round of the morning thus far is courtesy of Ben An, who made seven birdies to go with one bogey for an opening 6-under 66. He currently leads by one over Tommy Fleetwood (through 16) and Brandon Harkins (through 12). Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Brian Harman are one back of them and T-4.

12:48 p.m.: Phil the Thrill! Lefty just four-putted on the third hole (it was ugggggly), but just got one back by holing a 46-footer on the next hole. That's a microcosm of Phil's career—moments where you're left scratching your head, but followed by displays of brilliance that few others are capable of.

And how did Phil one-up that sequence? He just played an approach off the cart path. Of course he did. Does Phil practice these shots? It seems like he hits one off the path more than any other golfer.


12:40 p.m.: A Harris English highlight, everybody! The former Georgia Bulldog just holed his second shot at the par-5 11th hole from 236 yards out. What a shot! That gets English to T-19 and 2-under on his round. He's missed the cut in all five appearances at TPC Sawgrass.

12:24 pm.: Rory McIlroy holes a six-footer at the par-5 second hole to get within one of the lead. Rory's round has been a ball-striking clinic. He's missed a four-footer and seven-footer for birdies, so this round could even be better. But Rory hasn't made a bogey yet—and is putting the ball where he wants, which is key to scoring well at TPC Sawgrass.

Rory's playing partner, 2012 Players champ Matt Kuchar, just missed his eagle putt at No. 2, so he taps in for the easy birdie to join Rory at 4-under, one back of the lead.

12:20 p.m.: Tommy Fleetwood is staying hot in Florida. The Englishman has birdied three of his past five holes to get within one of Ben An's lead, and Fleetwood has another good look at the sixth hole.

Fleetwood shared the 36-hole lead last week at Bay Hill until he struggled in tough conditions, shooting a 76, though he rallied on Sunday to still finish T-3.

12:14 p.m.: Two impressive eagles in the past couple of minutes have vaulted players near the top of the leaderboard. Harold Varner just holed a wedge from 129 yards on the first hole for an eagle. That moves him to T-7 as he's now 3-under on his round (through 10). And Louis Oosthuizen has made the first eagle of the week on the short par-4 12th hole, holing an 88-foot, 10 inch putt for the 2.

12:08 p.m.: Tiger Woods has arrived at TPC Sawgrass for his 1:27 tee time. Try to stay calm, everyone.

On a serious note, it's great to see Woods playing just a week after he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a strained neck. Woods has improved with each start in 2019, beginning with a T-20 at Torrey Pines, followed by a T-15 at Riviera, and a T-10 in Mexico. The 14-time major champ is a two-time (2001 and 2013) Players winner.

12:00 p.m.: McIlroy misses a decent birdie look on No. 1 to remain at three under, but his playing partners both birdie. Mickelson makes from eight feet to move to two under, while Matt Kuchar converts from just outside of that to get to three under. Up ahead, Justin Rose finally makes his first birdie of the day on the par-3 third. At two over, the World No. 2 is just about the only big name not in red numbers right now.

11:50 a.m.: The guys are absolutely taking apart the par-3 17th hole this morning and Brandon Harkins becomes the latest to birdie the shortest hole on the course. Already his fifth birdie through his opening eight holes, Harkins currently leads by himself at five under par. The second-year PGA Tour pro has four career top 10s in 43 starts with his best finish being a T-8 at last year's CareerBuilder Championship.

11:36 a.m.: Talk about an exciting morning, the World No. 1 just grabbed a share of the lead. With a 15-footer for birdie on No. 18, Dustin Johnson makes the turn at four under. He's currently tied with Billy Horschel, Brendan Steele, Byeong Hun An, and Brandin Harkins. For full scores, click here.

11:28 a.m.: After grinding his way through nine holes, Justin Rose finally drops a shot on No. 1. In fact, he drops THREE shots with a rare triple bogey on one of TPC Sawgrass' easier par 4.

Playing partner Xander Schauffele makes par to stay at two under while the third member of the group, Justin Thomas, makes birdie to move to three under.

11:24 a.m.: That's more like it, Rory! McIlroy makes a nine-footer for birdie on No. 17 to finally get to three under after squandering several great opportunities. In fact, all three members of this featured group (Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar) make 2s on the infamous par 3. Easy hole. Nothing to it.

11:17 a.m.: Rory McIlroy misses a golden opportunity for birdie. Again. This time, after laying up on the par-5 16th, he hits his third to four feet, but bricks the putt. Rory remains at two under par.

11:15 a.m.: Somehow Dustin Johnson isn't in one of the PGA Tour's featured groups this morning. You know, Dustin Johnson? The world's number ONE player? That guy? Anyway, despite the lack of coverage, DJ is doing typical DJ things at three under through eight holes.

11:10 a.m.: The first marquee group finishes its first nine with three pars on No. 18. Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are at two under while Justin Rose is even after carding nine consecutive pars to start.

11:02 a.m.: Happy Pi Day, everyone! Especially to Bryson DeChambeau. The PGA Tour's mad scientist is enjoying this (very) unofficial holiday with three early birdies.

10:54 a.m.: It's never surprising to see Sergio Garcia on the leader board at TPC Sawgrass and at two under through six, that's exactly where the 2008 Players champ is. The Spaniard also did a little extra to ensure the golf gods would smile on him this week before the tournament started when he was involved in a marriage proposal on the 17th hole and wound up giving the couple $20,000.

It's a good start to make up for all those greens he destroyed in Saudi Arabia last month. . .

10:46 a.m.: Thomas, Rose, and Schauffele can exhale after all finding the island green safely. At 121 yards and with little wind, this is about as easy as the infamous hole can play. A couple holes behind, Rory McIlroy misses an easy putt to get to three under. Shocking, I know.

10:40 a.m.: We've got a couple water balls from the marquee morning group, but not on the hole you'd expect. Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose each rinse their approach shots on the par-5 16th. After a delay to determine where Schauffele's golf ball crossed, he winds up dropping well back and making bogey to drop back to two under. Rose, however, continues his incredible scrambling day by getting up and down from about 120 yards for a seventh consecutive par.

Meanwhile, the group's third member, Justin Thomas, makes his first par of the day to stay at two under. Onto 17. . .

10:15 a.m.: Justin Thomas' eventful start continues with a birdie on the par-4 15th. Despite pulling his drive into the pine straw, Thomas hit his approach to 20 feet and made the putt to get back to two under. Through six holes, he has yet to record a par. He trails playing partner Xander Schauffele by a shot. The FedEx Cup points leader is currently tied for first with Billy Horschel, Michael Thompson, Byeong Hun An, and Brandin Harkins. For full scores, click here.

9:55 a.m.: McIlroy makes another birdie, taking advantage of the drivable par-4 12th. McIlroy's fantastic tee shot landed on the back of the green near the hole before skipping over. He got up and down for a second consecutive hole for birdie to get to two under through three holes. Going the other way, however, is Justin Thomas. After birdieing his first three holes, he drops shots on 13 and 14 to fall back to one under.

9:39 a.m.: Rory McIlroy gets up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-5 11th to record his first birdie of the day. Statistically, McIlroy is playing as well as anyone on tour this year, but despite racking up five consecutive top-6 finishes, he's still looking for a first win of 2019. He's also looking for a first win at TPC Sawgrass where he has four missed cuts in nine previous starts, highlighted by a T-6 in 2014.

9:32 a.m.: Justin Thomas has followed up his opening birdie with two more at the 11th and 12th holes, putting him in the solo lead at three under after Howell made bogey at No. 2. He's among a group at two under that includes Bryson DeChambeau, Beau Hossler, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Billy Horschel.

9:12 a.m.: A wayward drive at the 14th leads to a bogey for Big Hoss, but he's still two under. That's now one off the lead of ATM machine Charles Howell III, who just eagled the par-4 fourth from a fairway bunker to get to three under. Strong start for Chucky three sticks. Up until last year, Sawgrass had given Howell fits throughout his career, his best finish being a T-32 all the way back in 2003. But in 2018 he go into contention by opening with rounds of 68 and 67, eventually finishing in a tie for 17th. Perhaps his fortunes are changing at the tricky Pete Dye track.

8:58 a.m.: There are 13 players already under par just an hour into the opening round, many of them marquee names. Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele all grabbed early birdies at the par-4 10th to get to one under.

But everybody is trailing Beau Hossler, who birdied his first three holes before making his first par at the par-3 13th. Hossler nearly got his breakthrough victory a year ago at the Houston Open, but Ian Poulter spoiled the party, draining a long birdie putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff. Poulter went on to win, while Hossler picked up his best finish of the season. He finished the summer strong after that, with a T-2 at the Travelers and a T-6 at the Quicken Loans. This season, Hoss has yet to register a top 10, and he's still searching for an elusive first victory.