Johnson off to strong start at Players

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

Phil Mickelson can probably start revving up his private jet for an early trip home after scoring 79, having dropped seven shots in a four-hole stretch from the 14th. The lead belonged to just about everyone else. He settled for a T10 by week's end and now he's right back in the mix this week here in Ponte Vedra Beach. May. According to GolfChannel.com, not only does Johnson have to worry about one man dethroning him from the top of the standings, he has four other players salivating like dogs in a meat locker for a taste of what he has held onto longer than any player not named Tiger Woods [VIDEO].

The other super group of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth did not play much better than Tiger & Co on Thursday.

None was anywhere near the lead at The Players Championship.

Almost two dozen players shot in the 60s. He shot 1-under 71. "It's fun to play golf courses like this, and it's also fun to play well on them".

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson also were at 66 among the early starters Thursday. Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley and Patrick Cantlay joined them late.

Johnson boasts a terrific record around this week's venue, the TPC Sawgrass, where he has made 12 cuts in 13 visits.

That's been the story of the TPC Sawgrass over the years - a design that doesn't favor one particular style of play.

Since its start in 1974, with Jack Nicklaus' historic victory over J.C. Snead at Atlanta Country Club, THE PLAYERS Championship has been one of the PGA Tour's most coveted titles.

Woods wasn't among them.

Woods, 42, is competing in the Players for the first time since 2015 and has never missed the cut in 16 previous appearances, although he withdrew twice.

On at least nine holes, Woods had some form of a wedge - pitching, gap or sand - and was rarely able to hit it close, as his two birdies attest. "I think the weekend is more important", Kim said.

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Or maybe they were just bored.

Dustin Johnson signalled his intention to maintain his status as world number one with an opening 66 in the Players Championship at Sawgrass. And he putted like he was fed up with not seeing enough go in. He liked the results.

Starting on the back nine, Johnson sank five birdies in the space of seven holes and then moved to six under with another birdie on the second, before making pars for the rest of the round. That's two shots better than his lowest score here, and just his fourth round in the 60s here. "So my mindset today was just to be as smart as I can and stay away from those big numbers". "It's definitely helped. Because I'm a feel putter anyways and so the way you're doing it really is you're just feeling it, so it definitely, it works". So it definitely works.

"It feels like a better year", he said. That might be a little bit different tomorrow afternoon.

"I'm very pleased with the way I'm putting it today", Johnson said.

Rookies and veterans alike were in the group at 67.

Woods made an 18-footer for eagle at the par-five ninth hole, but needed to salvage bogey at the par-four 18th to shoot a 72.

The veteran was 51-year-old Steve Stricker, who still can't decide whether to hang his hat in the big leagues or the senior circuit.

"I don't remember any of that stuff", Johnson said.

"Obviously, this week if I play really well I'll still be No. 1".

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