Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler limp to finish at first round at Players Championship


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The pre-tournament banter turned out to be one of the best a part of the Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler grouping on the Gamers Championship on Thursday.

The precise golf? Not so nice.

Woods led the way in which with an even-par 72 that included a rinsed tee shot on the 18th gap and a 10-foot bogey-saving putt. Fowler had a 74 and Mickelson — who performed within the long-sleeved shirt he debuted throughout a Masters follow spherical — performed the final 5 holes in 7 over par to shoot 79.

And when you think about that leaders Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Cantlay every shot 6-under-par 66 — with a complete of 68 gamers below par — the collective efforts of the threesome have been disappointing.

“It’s a lot more fun when you can get the three guys firing and trying to top each other,” Fowler said. “There have been instances the place we type of acquired that going. Tiger hit it in there shut at (the par-5) 9 and made eagle; I used to be capable of make birdie. I type of thought that was going to steer into one thing on the again. It did not work out that manner.”

Woods had one of the best probability at an honest spherical, attending to even par after two early bogeys with an 18-foot eagle putt after a 245-yard shot from the golf green to the again fringe. And when he added a birdie on the brief par-Four 12th, he was below par for the primary time.

However Woods missed a shot par putt on the 15th, made a birdie on the 16th, then hit his tee shot within the water at 18 to let go of an honest rating.

“I’ve got to drive it a little bit better than I did today and obviously hit the ball closer,” said Woods, who hit just 5 of 15 fairways and 11 of 18 greens. “Beginning to putt good once more and get on greens that I do know, and I simply must get the ball somewhat bit nearer and somewhat bit quicker than I did right this moment.”

Woods was coming off a shaky efficiency on the Wells Fargo Championship, the place he struggled on the greens, did not make a birdie in the course of the remaining spherical on Sunday and tied for 55th.

On Sunday, the PGA Tour introduced the marquee grouping of Woods, Mickelson and Fowler — a uncommon Woods-Mickelson matchup within the early rounds of a event. This was simply the 10th time of their PGA Tour careers that they performed within the first spherical collectively and the primary time because the 2014 PGA Championship. The one time they performed collectively on the Gamers was in 2001 in the course of the third spherical, when Woods shot 66 to Mickelson’s 72 on his approach to successful the event.

Each gamers appeared to embrace the grouping, with Mickelson suggesting they skip “all of the ancillary stuff of a event and simply go head-to-head and have type of a high-stake, winner-take-all match.”

Woods mentioned he welcomed the concept, suggesting they play for no matter “makes him uncomfortable.”

Because it turned out, had they performed a real match-play format, Woods would have closed out Mickelson with a 2-and-1 victory on the 17th — the place Mickelson’s tee shot discovered the water.

“I knew this was going to be an issue,” Mickelson said. “I mentioned it Sunday at Wells Fargo (the place he tied for fifth), I used to be nervous about vitality this week. And I simply type of ran out on the finish.

“I had loads of enjoyable, having fun with being with the blokes. I simply had a poor end, 7 during the last 5. That is the day.”

If it makes the trio really feel any higher, the opposite marquee group of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth did not fare significantly better. McIlroy shot 71, with Thomas at 73 and Spieth — who hit three balls within the water over his first eight holes — taking pictures 75.

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