Published: Mon, May 14, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Players Championship: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar among leaders at Sawgrass

Players Championship: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar among leaders at Sawgrass

Johnson has been ranked No. 1 for 64 straight weeks, but there are four players - Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose - who conceivably could overtake him this week, and though he was asked about it on Thursday, he seemed indifferent.

But the former US Open champion is not about to make life easy for his rivals and carded six birdies in an error-free first round to share the lead with compatriots Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Cantlay and Sweden's Alex Noren.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, playing together for the first time in almost four years, were out in the afternoon when the light wind was a little stronger.

The 33-year-old has never finished in the top 10 at the PGA Tour's flagship event, yet he took advantage of the flawless morning conditions to go bogey free.

So, where did that round come from? "The 12th is a fun little hole, a risk-reward hole, and normally if you make eagle you think you're going to have a crack at the green". But no, I was just trying to focus obviously on my round.

"You've got four par-5s-given the right wind, even I can get to all four of them". But today I felt like I did a very good job reading the greens.

If Spieth were to fight his way back into contention, a win combined with a finish by Johnson outside of the top 11 would allow Spieth to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking for the first time since he laid claim to it in 2015.

"Every week I know there's a chance someone can pass me".

"Obviously, this week if I play really well I'll still be No. 1. If I don't, someone's going to pass me, which is okay".

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Johnson, who elevated to No. 1 when he won last year's Genesis Open at Riviera, said, "It was definitely a big deal to get" to No. 1 and, he added, "It's a big deal to stay there".

"That's golf, unfortunately", said Woods, who completed 36 holes at 143, 1 under par.

"Today was a pretty good day for scoring", Johnson told the Golf Channel.

"It was actually quieter out there than I thought it would be", McIlroy said. But after an opening-round 66, you may see a lot more of the Johnson brothers straddling putting lines and holding their fingers in the air.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy finished the day on one under par, while 14-time major champion Tiger Woods eagled the par-five ninth during his level-par round of 72. "And if I, from here on in, shoot three scores in the 60s, I don't feel like I'll be that far away". The timing couldn't have been better, especially with his No. 1 ranking on the line. "It's fun to play golf courses like this, and it's also fun to play well on them". Only three other players - Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo - have been at the top longer than his current stay.

Almost two dozen players shot in the 60s.

"I've learned that you've got to be really smart", Simpson said about playing TPC Sawgrass. "I mean, I unloaded everything [in the swing]". "You could have given me another 100 balls and I wouldn't have holed out", he admitted. He would have been dead. "Even making 60 per cent, I win the tournament". "I don't quit, man".

Also signing for a 67 was 26-year old American Keith Mitchell who found his way into the $11m event after England's Paul Casey was forced out with injury.

"I hopefully give myself more looks", he said.

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