PONTE VEDRA BEACH in Fla. Chad RameyHe was able to avoid stress and bogeys in Thursdays Players Championship for an 8 under 64, making him an unlikely leader at a TPC Sawgrass course that seldom fails to surprise.
Ramey held a one-shot advantage over the two-time major champion Collin MorikawaMild conditions. About half of the field was equal or better.
It didnt lack drama, however.
Hayden BuckleyHe made an ace at the 17th hole, a hole he hadnt seen live until his Players Championship debut.
Aaron WiseIn just two holes, he lost four balls: in the water on the 17th hole and then three straight tee shots on the drink left of 18th fairway. He closed the round with a 10, just one short of the record for highest closing hole score.
Rory McIlroyHe had just over a year to reach his highest score. The 2019 Players champion opened with an opening 6 and closed with a 6 before he reached a 76.
Ramey had no such problems and put for birdie at all but two holes in the slightly calmer morning conditions.
Ramey stated that he might have made it look like that, but it was not easy. It was great fun. It was my first time shooting a score on an iconic course like this. You cant ask more.
Ramey was able to qualify for his first Players Championship after winning in the Dominican Republic against a weak field.
He believes that he belongs and is capable of beating anyone, even the strongest field. Even with the win, his record doesnt support that belief. Ramey has failed to make it in the top 20 in all 28 tournaments he has participated in since then.
Ramey stated, The game has felt really tight. Its been close, even though the scores haven’t shown it. One little tweak in my swing made a big difference and it is really paying off. I hit the ball right where I was looking for most of the day. When I did get out, I did a good job getting back in.
Morikawa missed two cuts in his three previous starts, which is rare for him. He spent more time trying to find the fade that led to his early success. He feels hes swinging it as well now as he did a few decades ago.
His signature shot was a 4-iron to three feet for eagle on the par-5 2nd hole. It was his 11th of the day and came during an eight-hole stretch that he played in 6-under. Morikawa played without a single bogey, which is crucial on a course like this.
He said, The game feels really good. Im going to take that into next few days and just use that momentum to hopefully win three more really great rounds.
Scottie SchefflerAt 68, he led the group. He was part the marquee group that featured three of the best players in the world. Jon RahmNo. 1 had a score of 71, McIlroy is at No. 3. Each of them has a chance at being No. Even if they dont win, all of them have a chance to reach No.
The Players Stadium Course is known for its eclectic mix of players, with 69 or higher. It included both first-timers such as Ramey and seasoned veterans like Woods. Min Woo LeeScheffler and other major champions Justin Rose(69) Jordan Spieth (69).
In 2014, Spieth almost won the Players. He lost to Martin Kaymer. In five of his seven previous appearances, he missed the cut.
Its just one place where I felt like my playing style was really good. Then I look at the board and Im like, Huh. Im not even among the top 10. He said that this is just how the tournament has been for him.
Xander SchauffeleHis debut was a runner up (four shots behind), and he missed the cut in three of his subsequent appearances. He looked as though he was headed for another early departure. He was 4 over through 10 holes, and had only three pars. He followed up with an eagle at the 11th, and then added three more birdies to bring his total to 72.
The 17th hole featured a front pin that was rarely seen until Saturdays round. It provided plenty of excitement, both good and bad. Buckley threw his cap into the air when his ball hit the cup.
Kelly KraftOn his way to a quadruple bogey 7, he hit two in the water. He was one of four players to score 80 or more. It was not possible due to the weather conditions. It is possible because of the nature of the course.
You cant just coast on a lot of holes, Sam Burns After his 68. Every shot has your focus here.