Sports

Matsuyama takes early lead; Rory McIlroy solid as Jordan Spieth sputters at Players

  • Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits from the 18th fairway during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits from the 18th fairway during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)  (The Associated Press)

  • Jordan Spieth reacts as his shot is short of the 11th hole cup during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux )

    Jordan Spieth reacts as his shot is short of the 11th hole cup during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux )  (The Associated Press)

  • Tiger Woods removes his cap after making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    Tiger Woods removes his cap after making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)  (The Associated Press)

Rory McIlroy held up his end of the hype at The Players Championship with a 3-under 69 that put him two shots behind the early lead.

Jordan Spieth was headed the other direction.

Hideki Matsuyama, the 23-year-old from Japan and a quiet part of golf's youth movement, had a 67 for a one-shot lead among the early starters Thursday in warm conditions at the TPC Sawgrass.

McIlroy stuck to his conservative plan. He made a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th and had only one bogey.

Spieth could have known early this would be a long day when he needed to use wedge three times around the par-5 11th green and had to scramble for bogey. He opened with a 75. That matched his highest score of the year.