Tommy Fleetwood shares Sawgrass lead before weather delays first round

McIlroy and Power both halted by weather as Lowry ends up one over after opening 73

Tommy Fleetwood shrugged off a lengthy weather delay to make a brilliant start to his bid to become the first Englishman to win The Players Championship.

Fleetwood carded seven birdies and a solitary bogey in an opening six-under-par 66 on a disjointed day at Sawgrass, where the start of play was delayed by an hour due to overnight rain and thunderstorms in the area.

When play did get underway, Fleetwood started on the back nine and picked up shots on the 11th and 16th, both par fives, before chipping in for another birdie on the 18th.

Fleetwood, who is without a win since 2019 and has slipped to 49th in the world rankings, also birdied the first and was facing a birdie putt from nine feet on the par-five second when play was suspended due to dangerous weather in the area at 11am local time.


It eventually resumed following a delay of four hours and 15 minutes but Fleetwood simply carried on where he left off, holing the birdie attempt and picking up another shot on the fifth.

A wayward tee shot on the next led to his only dropped shot of the day and the former Ryder Cup star bounced back with a birdie on the eighth to set an early clubhouse target matched moments before play was suspended for the day to due to darkness by Tom Hoge.

“We had a lot of waiting around but amazing conditions to score in,” Fleetwood admitted. “It was soft, we were playing preferred lies and there was never loads of wind, but you still have to hit the shots. I’m really happy to be done and we’ll see what happens the next few days.”

American Harold Varner III had looked set to post a better score when he reached the treacherous 17th at seven under par, only to become the first player to find the water off the tee.

After almost spinning his ball off the green for a second time, Varner eventually recorded a triple-bogey six and also bogeyed the last to complete a disappointing 69.

“It’s a game. That’s why we play it,” Varner said. “No-one is going to die out there. I’ve always said that. I just was in between clubs and didn’t execute the shot, and that’s what you get a lot out here. Either you get it done or you don’t.”

World number one Jon Rahm carded an opening 69, while Rory McIlroy bogeyed the first and birdied the second before play was called off for the day. Séamus Power completed just his first hole when his round was halted on level par, but Shane Lowry did manage to get his 18 holes in, ending up one over with an opening 73. The Offaly man carded a mixed round of five bogeys and four birdies.

Just a month away from his defence of the Masters, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama had earlier withdrawn from the $15.2million event due to a lingering back injury.

Matsuyama had been scheduled to tee off at 8:40 local time alongside Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Smith. He was replaced in the field by Patrick Rodgers.

Matsuyama led after the opening round of the Players in 2020 following a superb 63, only for the event to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

First round scores in The Players Championship TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, United States of America

(USA unless stated, Par 72):

Play has been suspended due to darkness:

66 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Tom Hoge

67 Kramer Hickok, Keith Mitchell, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Anirban Lahiri (Ind)

68 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Sam Burns, Brian Harman

69 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Jon Rahm (Spa), Cameron Smith (Aus), Harold Varner III, Will Zalatoris, Alexander Noren (Swe)

70 Paul Casey (Eng), Corey Conners (Can), Joel Dahmen, Lanto Griffin, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor), Maverick McNealy, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Sebastian Munoz (Col), Jimmy Walker, Pat Perez, Peter Malnati

71 Sergio Garcia (Spa), Beau Hossler, Viktor Hovland (Nor), Russell Knox (Sco), Adam Long, Ryan Palmer, Doc Redman, Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Richy Werenski, Aaron Wise, Gary Woodland

72 Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Lee Hodges, Sung Jae Im (Kor), Martin Laird (Sco), Guillermo Mito Pereira (Chi), Brandt Snedeker, Matthew Wolff

73 Wyndham Clark, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Shane Lowry (Irl), Ian Poulter (Eng), Patrick Reed, Roger Sloan (Can), Kevin Streelman, Kevin Tway, Patrick Rodgers

74 Lucas Glover, Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Charley Hoffman, Kyle Stanley

75 Webb Simpson

76 Tony Finau, Brian Gay

78 Adam Schenk, Adam Scott (Aus)

79 Matt Jones (Aus)