Lothians ace Stephen Gallacher was not surprised to see a clutch of Europeans make strong starts in the Players’ Championship at Sawgrass.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer led the way by carding a nine-under-par 63 – the best-ever opening round in the event – to open up a two-shot cushion in the so-called ‘fifth major’.
It also equalled the tournament record as he joined Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994) and Roberto Castro (2013) in bringing the famed course to its knees.
Four other Europeans – English duo Lee Westwood and Justin Rose as well as Spanish pair Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – also got off to good starts with five-under 67s to sit joint-fourth.
“I was saying to my caddie, Damien [Moore], when we first got here, this course should suit the Europeans, and that was the case today,” noted Gallacher.
On his debut in the event, the 39-year-old had every reason to feel reasonably pleased about a two-under 70 that included a strong finish over a fearsome closing stretch.
“It was great to birdie 16 and 18 so that will make lunch taste a little nicer,” admitted the double Dubai Desert Classic winner.
Tied 29th, he is sitting best of the three Scots in the field after Russell Knox and Martin Laird shot 72 and 76 respectively.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy had 69 and 70 respectively.
Selected leading positions in the first round of The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course), Florida, USA (USA unless stated, par 72,
(x) denotes amateurs):
63: Martin Kaymer (Ger)
65: Russell Henley
66: Sang-moon Bae (Kor)
67: Brian Stuard, Justin Rose (Eng), Scott Stallings, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Gary Woodland, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa), Jordan Spieth, Lee Westwood (Eng)
68: Dustin Johnson, Justin Leonard, Pat Perez, Scott Brown, Bill Haas, Joost Luiten (Ned), Ernie Els (Rsa)
69: Brendon De Jonge, Graeme McDowell (Nirl), Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Graham Delaet (Can), Kevin Streelman, Brendan Steele, John Huh
70: Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Jason Kokrak, Jeff Overton, Martin Flores, Brian Gay, David Hearn (Can), Matthew Jones (Aus), Rory McIlroy (Nirl), Marc Leishman (Aus), Briny Baird, John Senden (Aus), Stewart Cink, Angel Cabrera (Arg), Kevin Na, Freddie Jacobson (Swe), Jim Furyk, Stephen Gallacher (Sco), James Hahn, Camilo Villegas (Col), Ryan Moore