PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Gary Woodland’s first event since the Masters didn’t get off to an ideal start. A double-bogey on No. 13, his fourth hole, and a triple-bogey on the next hole had him 5 over par after five holes. He shot 77 Thursday.
Woodland was last seen at Augusta National, where he withdrew after the third round because of an injury to his left wrist. He played through the pain, shooting 85. It turned out to be a cyst in his left wrist that ruptured on the eight hole. “That was the best case,” Woodland said. “Now it’s healed. The problem is it stunk at the time.”
Woodland wasn’t cleared to hit balls until April 30. He started putting just a few days earlier and wasn’t able to “get after it” until a week ago, playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“I’ve made a lot of swing changes this year, and I felt like I was getting it down,” said Woodland, who began working with Butch Harmon at the start of the year. “Taking four weeks away from it, I feel like I’m right back at step one. I just don’t feel comfortable with it right now. I have a lot of work to do.”
Woodland’s last missed cut came at this event last year. He’ll have work to do Friday to keep that streak alive.
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FEATURE FILM: It had all the makings of a good grouping, but Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler couldn’t live up to their billing as Thursday morning’s featured pairing.
None of the three broke par. Fowler, the winner of last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, shot 72, while Woods and Mahan, a two-time winner in 2012, were in with 74s. It was Fowler’s first pairing with Woods in competition.
“Unfortunately, the three of us didn’t play as well as we’d want to,” Fowler said. “We were all a little off. Hunter is one of the best drivers on Tour and he struggled starting the ball online and trusting his driver. Tiger just struggled with keeping the momentum going, he was a little up-and-down, kind of the same way I was. I couldn’t stay away from the bogeys.”
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BROKEN RECORD: The course record was on Kevin Na’s mind after he made the turn in 30. “That was a pipe dream” he said. Hopes of a record round ended on the first hole, when his tee shot stayed in a tree and Na had to take the stroke-and-distance penalty for a lost ball. He made double bogey there, but rebounded with consecutive birdies. Na shot 67 with nine birdies, a double-bogey and two bogeys.
“I asked for any volunteers to climb the tree, but no one spoke up,” he said. Na, who finished third at the 2009 Players, estimates it’s just the second time in his career that he’s had a ball hang up in a tree.
“If I’m driving it well, it’s a place where I feel like I have a chance,” said Na. As long as he stays out of those trees.
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FIRST OF ALL: Ben Crane shot 67, continuing a streak of strong play on Thursdays at TPC Sawgrass. He has a 66.75 scoring average in the first round of the past four Players Championships. He finished in the top-6 here in 2008-10, but was 45th in 2011 after closing with 76-71-71.
“I’ve learned a lot over the years,” Crane said. “I think I just manage, almost not where to go, but where not to go.”
He has a 71.7 scoring average in seven previous appearances, with his only missed cut coming in his first appearance here (79-68, 2003).
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NOT QUITE AN 800 NUMBER, BUT CLOSE: Sung Kang’s Players Championship got off to a rough start. He made a quadruple-bogey at the first hole. But it quickly got better, an eagle at the second, par at the third, birdie at the fourth. That’s right, he went 8-3-3-3.
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WOODS BY THE NUMBERS: Actually, Tiger Woods shooting 2-over 74 shouldn’t surprise anyone, should it? Playing in this chamionship for the 14th time, Woods still hasn’t ever broken 70 in Round 1, his scoring average being 71.71. But 74 is his third-worse opening score (he shot 75 in 2004 and 2007).
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SPLISH, SPLASH: Midway through round 1, the vaunted island-green was not playing terribly difficult. With a field average of 3.169, it ranked only eighth-toughest. Just don’t tell that to Angel Cabrera, who hit three tee balls in the water en route to a quintuple-bogey. Added to the double-bogey at the par-5 11th, the two-time major champion came home in 43 to shoot 78.
Cabrera’s mishap was the only notation in the “other” category for the 17th, though three players from the morning wave made doubles.
No such problems will face Cabrera friday, because he withdrew following the first round.
He was not alone, either.
Hunter Haas triple-bogeyed the first, bogeyed the third, and promptly withdrew. Paul Casey went out in 42 and cited a sore shoulder for his WD, and Simon Dyson quit after shooting 76, citing his back.
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NOBODY KNOWS, THE TROUBLES I’VE SEEN: No one is having a rougher time in 2012 than D.J. Trahan. He double-bogeyed his first hole, the par-4 10th, was 6 over after six holes, and wound up shooting 80.
It continued a downward trend for Trahan, who in his first 11 tournaments this season has made just three cuts. He’s riding a four-tournament stretch in which he’s missed three cuts and withdrawn once.
Then again, one wouldn’t suspect that he’d snap out of things at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Here for the seventh time, Trahan has made one cut and never broken 70 in 15 rounds.