Collin Morikawa holds second spot and world No 2 Scottie Scheffler is within four of the lead, with Rory McIlroy 12 strokes off the pace struggling to an opening 76; Watch the second round live on Friday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf, with extra feeds via the red button
By Ali Stafford at TPC Sawgrass
Chad Ramey upstaged the PGA Tour’s biggest names to claim a shock lead after the opening round of The Players, where Rory McIlroy endured a nightmare start in his bid to return to world No 1.
Ramey – who had missed the cut in his seven of his previous 10 PGA Tour starts – ripped up the form guide by firing a brilliant bogey-free 64 at TPC Sawgrass, with eight birdies helping the American to a one-shot advantage over two-time major winner Collin Morikawa.
A three-birdie finish from late starter Ben Griffin lifted him to a share of third on five under alongside Justin Suh and Canada’s Taylor Pendrith, with Scottie Scheffler four off the pace after out-performing Jon Rahm and McIlroy in their morning marquee group.
Scheffler birdied three of his last four holes to card an opening-round 68 and current world No 1 Rahm lies seven back after a one-under 71, while McIlroy is in danger of missing the cut after double-bogeying his opening hole and adding four bogeys in a frustrating four-over 76.
How Ramey moved ahead at TPC Sawgrass
Ramey followed three birdies in his opening five holes by draining a 30-footer at the par-four seventh, helping him reach the turn in 32, then continued his progress by starting his back nine with successive birdies.
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The world No 225 ended a run of pars by taking advantage of the par-five 16th and jumped into the solo lead when he fired his tee shot at the iconic par-three next to within tap-in range, before signing off his blemish-free card by two-putting from distance at the last.
“Not easy at all,” Ramey said. “I might have made it look that way but it wasn’t easy at all. It was fun, first time to shoot a score on such an iconic course like this – you can’t ask for any more.”
Morikawa held the outright advantage earlier in the day after mixing five birdies with a stunning eagle at the par-five second, where he fired his approach to within four feet of the flag, while Suh made a late charge for the lead when he posted five birdies in a five-hole stretch from the seventh to join the group tied-third.
The limited daylight in Florida meant that the final few groups were unable to finish before play was suspended due to darkness at 6.28pm local time (11.28pm BST), with Suh among those who will need to return on Friday to finish.
Mixed fortunes for golf’s stars
Scheffler is joined in the group on four under by Min Woo Lee, who bogeyed his final two holes after suffering cramp late in his round, with Jordan Spieth starting his back nine with three consecutive birdies on his way to a three-under 69.
Xander Schauffele battled back from being four over with eight holes to play to card a level-par 72, with English trio Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton also in that group eight off the pace, while Hayden Buckley had to settle for an opening-round 73 despite a brilliant hole-in-one at the par-three 17th.
McIlroy mixed two birdies with four bogeys and a double-bogey during a frustrating opening day, leaving him 12 off the lead, with only nine players posting a higher total than the four-time major champion during the morning wave.
Watch The Players throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Friday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf, with a host of extra feeds available via the red button.