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The Players Championship: Sergio Garcia two ahead as Rory McIlroy struggles to opening-round 79

The Players Championship: Sergio Garcia two ahead as Rory McIlroy struggles to opening-round 79

Sergio Garcia produced a sparkling finish to open a two-shot lead after the opening round of The Players, as Rory McIlroy’s title defence got off to a terrible start.

Garcia followed back-to-back birdies with a final-hole eagle to close out a seven-under 65 and set a clubhouse target that couldn’t be matched at TPC Sawgrass, with late starter Brian Harman his closest challenger after an opening-round 67.

Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry sit three off the pace alongside Corey Conners, while Bryson DeChambeau and Lee Westwood – the top two at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational – both opened with a three-under 69.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson began his week with a one-over 73, as McIlroy slipped 14 strokes back after equalling the worst start by a defending champion at The Players with an opening-round 79.

Playing alongside McIlroy and 2018 champion Webb Simpson, Garcia opened with five straight pars before following a 20-foot birdie at the 15th by eagling the par-five next to reach the turn in 33.

Garcia bounced back from a three-putt bogey at the first by making a two-putt gain at the par-five second, with the Spaniard then signing off his round in style by following birdies at the seventh and eighth with a 20-foot eagle at the par-five ninth.

Harman was over par after eight holes but posted six birdies in eight holes to move within two of the lead, while Lowry also got to five under until he undid a birdie-two at the iconic 17th by bogeying his final hole.

Source: Sky Sports

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