Fleetwood, Bradley tied for lead

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — A big finish for Tommy Fleetwood and a fast start for Keegan Bradley led each to a 7-under 65 on Thursday for a share of the lead in the opening round of The Players Championship.

Fleetwood kept a clean card in the March wind, kept his patience and was rewarded at the end with three birdie putts. Bradley had three eagle putts on the front nine, made one of them, and picked up a pair of birdies on the front nine.

Tiger Woods made only one par on the back nine — five birdies, three bogeys — in a round of 70. He has only broken 70 in the opening round one time at the TPC Sawgrass, when he won in 2013.

“Usually if I had one par, it’s usually shooting 30 or 29,” Woods said. “Not what I did today.”

It wasn’t as clean as Woods wanted, especially playing late in the afternoon when the wind began to die and the greens picked up a little more speed.

Even so, it was a reasonable start at a tournament where the key is not to fall too far behind, whether it’s in March or May.

The move from May to its traditional spot on the calendar brought green, softer conditions and more wind than usual. Even so, Fleetwood was among several early starters who managed to take aim on the TPC Sawgrass.

Fleetwood had only one birdie on the slightly easier back nine, and finished with birdie putts from 15 feet, 30 feet and 18 feet.

“If you’re in the fairway all the time, the course feels very, very different,” Fleetwood said. “And it’s a massive key around here. And then I just started picking a few shots up, and then you get on a run like 7, 8, 9, and it feels great after that. Just one of them would feel like a great round, so three of them … I’ll take it.”

Byeong Hun An and Brian Harman were at 66, while Rory McIlroy also played bogey-free for a 67. He was in a group with Ryan Moore, who made the ninth hole-in-one on the island-green 17th hole, and Vaughn Taylor, who must love the move back to March.

Taylor is among 23 players who have competed on the Stadium Players Course in both months. He tied for eighth the last time it was in March in 2006. In the eight times he played in May, he never made the cut.

Bradley, who a week ago shared the 36-hole lead with Fleetwood at Bay Hill, has only one top 10 in his eight trips to the TPC Sawgrass.

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