PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy had their best start ever Thursday in The Players Championship. It still wasn't enough to catch Roberto Castro, who had never played the TPC Sawgrass and made a debut he won't soon forget.
Castro hit shots into tap-in range on the famed 17th and 18th holes on his way to a 9-under 63 in perfect scoring conditions in the morning. He tied the course record held by Fred Couples and Greg Norman, and it gave him a three-shot lead - the largest 18-hole margin in 21 years at Sawgrass - over McIlroy and Zach Johnson.
"I hit it close a lot," said Castro, making it sound as easy as it looked.
Woods had to work a little harder in the afternoon, when a breeze arrived and the sun began to make the green firm. Even so, he was on the cusp of his first bogey-free round in his 16 years at The Players until his 8-iron from 200 yards went just over the green and he flubbed his chip. The bogey gave him a 67, which was the first time he has broken 70 in the opening round at Sawgrass.
"It was a day that I felt I had to shoot something in the 60s," Woods said. "Most of the guys were under par in the morning session."
Half of the players who played early broke par, a rarity at this tournament.
Vijay Singh, playing one day after he sued the PGA Tour for its handling of his doping case, hit into the water on the last hole and made bogey for a 74, leaving him in danger of missing the cut.
Michael Thompson makes hole-in-one
Tucson native Michael Thompson made the sixth hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole with a 3-iron from 233 yards. It was the first ace on the longest par 3 at Sawgrass since Ted Tryba and Joe Ozaki in the final round of 2000. "The skill is hitting the shot that I wanted to hit. The luck part of it is once it hit the green, anything can happen," he said.
Singh's suit draws little public reaction at TPC
One spectator wore fake deer antlers. Another yelled about eating venison. And a group of guys shouted, "Stay off the spray, Vijay."
But for the most part, there was little public reaction to Singh's lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour.
Hecklers were few and far between at TPC Sawgrass - possibly because it was a well-behaved golf crowd, possibly because it was Singh's home course and possibly because few care enough to make a public outcry.
"He doesn't deserve that," playing partner Robert Garrigus said. "I don't know how many majors he's won. I don't know how many tournaments he's won. He's won a lot of money out here. He deserves our respect as players even if he's suing the PGA Tour or not."
Singh sued the PGA Tour on Wednesday for exposing him to "public humiliation and ridicule" during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer antler spray. The tour dropped its case last week.