PONTE VEDRE, FLA. – Off early Thursday in the Players Championship, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, playing in an event that fancies itself a borderline major, wasn’t even the headliner in his own threesome.
So, what was Jason Day to do to get a little attention?
How about twirling a little TPC Sawgrass-record-tying 63, and making it look as easy as freshmen music appreciation?
By the time Day’s first round was done, he had lapped the other fellow of renown in his group several times over. Head-to-head against Jordan Spieth, in his return to competitive golf after April’s meltdown at the Masters, it was no contest. Spieth was that speck in the distance, nine strokes behind Day.
And now we are left to wonder, was this golf tournament decided before the Thursday afternoon groups even launched? OK, that may be a bit of overstatement. As the experts like to say, there’s a lot of golf to be played.
Day is the fifth fellow to go 9-under in a Players Championship round. Two of the previous four, Greg Norman in 1994 and Martin Kaymer in 2014, posted that number in the first round and ended up winning on Sunday. Day is of similar pedigree.
He would love to duplicate the 22-year-old scorecard of his countryman Norman. “It would be great to shoot three 67s over the next three days,” he said, referring to Norman’s path to the tournament-record 24 under.
That is hardly beyond Day’s reach. He can go low from any nook on this course – his round Thursday began with a birdie out of a deep fairway bunker and another from an arbor of water oaks.
To think his previous round here was an 81 on the way to missing the cut last year. His previous low round here was a 68, and he has missed more cuts (three) than he has made here (two, with the best finish a tie for sixth). Yes, golf is a fickle game. Day is on the right side of its affections now.
You get the feeling this is a Jason Day who intends to hold onto the No. 1-world ranking for a while as well as one who is going to be a very good front-runner.