Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Hideki Matsuyama carded a 5-under 67 in Thursday's opening round to grab a share of the lead at The Players Championship.
Matsuyama, the reigning Memorial champion, was joined atop the leaderboard by David Hearn, Charley Hoffman and Kevin Na.
Last season's FedExCup champ Billy Hurley is among six players who are one stroke off the lead on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Hurley stands at minus-4 alongside Troy Merritt, Ben Martin, Brendon Todd, Charles Howell III and Derek Fathauer.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and defending champion Martin Kaymer are among 14 players tied for 11th at 3-under 69. Also in that group are Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker and Sergio Garcia.
McIlroy had two birdies, an eagle and a bogey in his round. Kaymer mixed five birdies and two bogeys in his 69.
Two-time winner Tiger Woods and 2007 champion Phil Mickelson both found water off the 18th tee. Both players closed with double-bogeys for rounds of 1-over 73, which left them tied for 77th.
Matsuyama opened with three straight pars from the 10th. He rolled in a 12- footer for birdie at the 13th. After a par on No. 14, Matsuyama stuffed his approach shot three feet from the hole at the 15th.
He rolled that in for birdie and followed with a 2-putt birdie from 13 feet out on the 16th to move to minus-3. Around the turn, Matsuyama found a greenside bunker at the first and that led to a bogey.
Matsuyama quickly erased that mistake with a birdie at the second. He drained an 8-foot birdie putt at the fourth and followed with four straight pars. Matsuyama converted a 12-foot birdie effort on the ninth to grab the early lead.
"I didn't hit the ball really well, especially the first three holes. I didn't hit the fairway once, but I was able to make pars. Got the round going with a birdie at 13, then putted well the rest of the way in," Matsuyama said through a translator. "The greens were receptive, but fast."
Hearn, Hoffman and Na were all in the afternoon wave, and all three also played the back nine first. Hearn poured in an 18-footer for eagle at the 11th, but gave one stroke back when he bogeyed the 14th.
The Canadian atoned for that mistake on the 15th, where he made birdie from 17 feet out. Hearn birdied the 18th en route to making the turn at minus-3.
Hearn parred the first six holes of the front side before sinking a 9-foot birdie try at the seventh. He closed with a birdie at the last to grab a piece of the lead.
Hoffman, who was in the group behind Hearn, flew up the leaderboard as he birdied three in a row from the 10th. After three straight pars from the 13th, he 2-putted for birdie on No. 16, then stuffed his tee shot at the island green 17th within five feet.
The 38-year-old converted that for birdie and parred the 18th to make the turn at minus-5. He made a mess of the first, however.
Hoffman found the trees of the tee and chipped out. He missed the green with his third, then his first putt failed to reach the putting surface. Hoffman's second putt rolled off the other side of the green.
He took two more shots to get down and walked off with a triple-bogey. Hoffman got one shot back with an 11-foot birdie putt at the second. He made a short birdie try at four, then closed with a birdie No. 9, his last, to tie for the lead.
"I was playing good, but I hit a bunch of bad shots on the first hole. I was fortunate enough to bounce back with a birdie on two and just keep it going after that," said Hoffman.
Na, who was in the last group out, birdied the 10th and 11th to open his round. After a 3-putt bogey at the 15th, Na rolled in a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th. Na birdied the second and fourth to move within one of the lead. He parred four in a row from the fifth. Na birdied the ninth from 11 feet out to grab a piece of the lead.
NOTES: Matsuyama has five top-5 finishes this season ... Hearn is the only leader without a PGA Tour title ... Masters champion Jordan Spieth struggled to a 3-over 75, which left him tied for the 109th ... Todd and Howell had the only bogey-free rounds on Thursday ... Darren Clarke withdrew during the round after injuring his wrist on the range prior to the round.