May 11 (Reuters) - William McGirt, boosted by two eagles, charged to the clubhouse lead as defending champion Jason Day leaked oil coming home during the first round at The Players Championship in Florida on Thursday.
McGirt, on the leaderboard for much of the Masters last month, continued his emergence as a player for the big occasion with a five-under-par 67 on a steamy morning at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra.
He led fellow American J.B. Holmes and Swede Alex Noren by one stroke with half the field back in the clubhouse.
Day trailed by three shots after three bogeys in his final four holes, with Phil Mickelson also two-under.
McGirt made his first eagle with a 55-foot putt at the par-five 11th before sinking a 10-footer at the par-five 16th.
“Two good yardages, two good shots and two good putts,” he said after becoming the sixth player to record two eagles on the back nine in the same round at The Players.
McGirt is not exactly a fan of the course, finishing no better than 43rd in four previous starts and of the opinion that luck plays too big a factor.
“The thing with this place is you hit one that lands four, five feet off the putting surface, there’s no telling what’s going to happen to it,” said the 37-year-old journeyman, who registered his maiden PGA Tour victory last year at the Memorial tournament.
“So it’s a matter of getting away with somehow getting lucky when you do miss a shot. That’s the way this golf course is.”
Day left last year’s Players Championship as a runaway world number one, but he has not won since, so he had reason to feel half pleased with his performance, if not with the rocky finish.
“I was thinking actually seven (or) eight-under after the second hole and I did give myself the opportunities coming in, just, unfortunately, had a couple of mistakes,” the Australian told reporters.
“I haven’t really been in this position recently, actually going out there and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard and stuff like that, which is kind of weird. But with that being said, you always got to start somewhere and try and build on it and it seems like it was a good start for me.”
Masters champion Sergio Garcia and world number one Dustin Johnson were among those with late tee times. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)