Dustin Johnson put his underwhelming performance at the Masters behind him with a strong first round at The Players Championship.
The American is among six players currently six-under after the opening day of the competition at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Patrick Cantley and 2012 champion Matt Kuchar are all in contention with Johnson at the top of the leaderboard.
However, Jordan Spieth endured a poor opening day, firing a round of three-over. Rory McIlroy was solid if unspectacular with a one-under performance, while Masters champion Patrick Reed ended the day on even-par.
We’ll now see how the odds have shifted for the key men in the competition after the first round.
Johnson has been up-and-down over the course of the season. He has one win under his belt at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but needs a major triumph to justify his standing as world number one. The 33-year-old was not quite at his best at the Masters, finishing in tied-10th off the pace of Reed and Spieth at the top of the leaderboard. However, he has put a strong opening round forward at TPC Sawgrass as he looks to secure his second crown of the term.
Johnson started his round on the back nine and was outstanding before the turn. He birdied the 11th and the 12th to build momentum before adding another on the 14th. The American continued his surge with further birdies at 16 and 18, carding a 31 on his first nine holes. He front nine proved to be less fruitless, although his game remained flawless not recording a single bogey. Johnson parred the final seven holes to card a 66 on six-under. The 33-year-old has established himself as the leading contender in the competition due to his pedigree. Back him at +500 with BetVictor to win the competition for the first time.
Kuchar was equally impressive on the opening day of the competition. His history at TPC Sawgrass makes him an intriguing contender for the crown, although he has only one top-five finish to his name in the current campaign. He won The Players Championship in 2012 by two strokes ahead of the rest of the field. The 39-year-old appeared to channel that performance on the opening round, but he needs to sustain his form to notch his second victory at the tournament.
The American started on the front nine and enjoyed a good start to his round, collecting birdies on the second and fourth. However, his momentum was stymied before the turn with a bogey at the eighth after sending his tee shot into the bunker. His response was emphatic recovering with a birdie at the 10th before carding an eagle on the par-five 11th. Further birdies followed at the 12th, 15th and 16th to move to seven-under and the lead, but a bogey on the 18th brought him back to the pack. His experience makes Kuchar a solid bet at odds of +1800 with Betway.
The South Korean won the event last year with a fine performance, finishing three strokes ahead of the rest of the field. The 22-year-old found his form at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago, placing second at the event and has now carried that level of play into The Players Championship. Not even Jack Nicklaus managed to win the competition in successive years. However, Kim has played himself into contention with a brilliant display on his opening round and is just one shot off the lead.
Kim began on the back nine and was able to find an early rhythm, notching birdies at the 12th and 13th. He held his form before the turn adding further birdies at the 17th and 18th to card a 32 to send him into the front nine with momentum. Kim continued his fine performance with three birdies between the second and fifth, but he ended his round on a low note, carding back-to-back bogeys on the eighth and ninth. The 22-year-old’s win last season gives him an edge, although his late mistakes could cost him. It could be worth an outside shout at +3300 with BetVictor.
The Spaniard was impressive at the Masters, placing narrowly off the pace in fourth. He left himself too much to do in his quest for the Green Jacket, beginning with a poor opening round. However, Rahm has found his form at TPC Sawgrass and could be on course for his second victory on the tour this term following his triumph at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January. The challenge now for the 23-year-old is sustaining his charge as he has more than enough talent to match Johnson and the rest of the field at the top of the leaderboard.
Rahm had a steady opening burst not making his first birdie until the fifth hole after starting on the front nine. He capitalised on the par-five ninth hole to move two-under just before the turn. However, Rahm dropped a shot at the 10th, but recovered immediately with a birdie at the 11th before notching another two in successive holes on the 15th and 16th. At four-under and on current form he’s certainly one to watch at +2000 with BetVictor.
Garcia won the event in 2008 by defeating American Paul Goydos in a playoff, proving his credentials at TPC Sawgrass. The Spaniard was looking for a response in his game after a poor defence of his Masters crown where he failed to make the cut. He began on the front nine and made a birdie on the second, only to drop a stroke on the fourth. Garcia found his rhythm to move four-under at the turn.
He reeled off five birdies on the bounce to propel himself to the top of the leaderboard. The Spaniard carded his eighth birdie of the day on the 15th, only to endure a nightmare end to his round. He found the water on the 17th to double bogey the hole, while a bogey followed on the 18th, dropping Garcia back to four-under in the competition. The Spaniard is untrustworthy to back unless there’s value, which might be found at +2200 with BetVictor.
Dustin Johnson To Win The Players Championship
Friday 11th May 2018 – Sunday 13th May 2018
Jon Rahm To Win The Players Championship
Friday 11th May 2018 – Sunday 13th May 2018
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