The one thing you can count on at The Players Championship is a lot of craziness, typically four days worth.
The 2017 version got off and running Thursday with a pair of party crashers taking the first round lead.
Will McGirt, who crashed another party early last month at The Masters, was up to his old tricks again. He was in the morning wave when conditions were at their best for scoring and he posted a five-under par 67.
Late in the day, another unlikely contender would tie McGirt. McKenzie Hughes, who has missed the cut in four of his last six events, survived an errant tee shot at the difficult 18th, salvaged a par and tied McGirt for the lead.
World’s No. 1 Dustin Johnson looked like he was sleep-walking for most of his first round but he finally woke up with an eagle on the 16th that helped him post a one-under 71 that put him right in contention.
World’s No. 2 Rory McIlroy had his struggles, finished with a 73 thanks to a birdie at the 18th then revealed that his back is once again bothering him, the same type of problem that bothered him earlier this season.
“Three weeks off then spending four or five hours a day practicing caused the problem,” McIlroy revealed after his round. “I’m going to try and get through this week then hopefully get going through the summer.”
One of the strongest players on the course Thursday was rookie John Rahm. He birdied the 18th to shoot a four-under par 68. He turned in a clean, bogey-free scorecard on his first trip around the Stadium course.
Rahm is by far the most threatening name at the top of the leaderboard.
J.B. Holmes, Alex Noren and Chez Reavie joined Rahm at four-under.
There were a lot of big names in red figures early but most retreated late in their rounds. Rickie Fowler was four-under through 12 holes and finished with a 70. Defending champion Jason Day looked even stronger. He was five-under through 14 but he bogeyed three of the final four holes on the front nine to finish his day with a two-under par 70.
Phil Mickelson carded a 70, Hideki Matsuyama shot 72 while Jordan Spieth stumbled and ended his day with a 73.
Adam Scott played late in the day and had it going better than anyone out there on Thursday. He was six-under par through 16 holes but hit balls in the water at the 17th and 18th, finished with a pair of double-bogeys and settled for a 70.
In all 17 players managed to break 70 on day one.