Castro shoots 63, leads by 3 at Players

Roberto Castro tied the course record with a sizzling 9-under 63 on Thursday to grab the lead after the first round of the Players Championship.

Castro, who is making his Players debut, equaled the mark set by Fred Couples (1992) and Greg Norman (1994).

Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson share second place as each fired a 6-under 66 in their opening round at TPC Sawgrass.

The world No. 2 McIlroy has failed to make the cut in three previous appearances at this event.

"It was benign out there," McIlroy said about the weather. "There wasn't much wind. It was perfect conditions for scoring and I was able to take advantage of those."

World No. 1 and 2001 champion Tiger Woods bogeyed his final hole to fall into a group of players tied for fourth place at 5-under.

Woods is joined by Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson, Casey Wittenberg and Ryan Palmer.

Castro started on the back nine and opened with a par before starting his run up the leaderboard with a 7-foot birdie putt at the 11th.

He picked up another stroke with a short putt at the 14th, and followed a 10- foot birdie putt at the 16th with back-to-back birdie putts of less than two feet at the 17th and 18th to hit the turn at 5-under.

Castro then hit his second shot at the par-5 second to within four feet and converted the short eagle effort.

He continued his stellar iron play from there by sticking the ball within two feet at the fourth and sixth for a couple more birdies to reach 9-under.

He failed to convert lengthy birdie putts on his final three holes to remain there and fail to set a new course record.

"It was a fun day," said Castro. "(It's) nice to have 18 holes that I showed what I've been working on."

McIlroy also opened with a par on the 10th, and then rolled in consecutive birdie putts from inside four feet at the 11th and 12th.

After picking up another shot at the 14th, he followed a 14-foot birdie putt at the 16th with a 6-foot birdie effort at the 17th to make the turn at 5- under.

McIlroy moved to minus-6 with a short birdie putt at the second and closed with seven straight pars.

"I'm definitely a lot more relaxed coming in here this year," McIlroy said. "Whatever I do this week, what I felt coming in is I'll do better than I ever have before. I feel like I've got the game to contend. I just wanted to go out and play well, and that's what I've done so far."

Johnson started his round with a birdie at the first and after parring the next six holes, he reeled off three straight birdies from the eighth to move to 4-under.

He then traded a birdie at the 12th with a bogey at the 14th before capping back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th with a 33-foot putt to meet McIlroy in second place.

Woods got into red numbers with a birdie at the second and later poured in four straight birdies from the ninth to move to 5-under.

A birdie at the 16th pulled him within three strokes of the lead and into a share of second place.

But his second shot at the par-4 18th rolled off the back of the green and he chunked his next shot, failing to get it up a hill and on to the green.

Woods chipped his par effort to about a foot of the hole and tapped in for a bogey to drop four shots off the pace.

"Overall, I think I need to strike the ball a little better than I did today. I missed all the balls in the right spots, which was nice. It's always nice when I can do that," Woods stated at the end of his round.

NOTES: Bob Estes withdrew prior to the start of his round with an illness and was replaced by Scott Langley ... Retief Goosen withdrew during his first round due to a back injury. He was at even par through nine holes ... Michael Thompson hit a hole-in-one at the eighth hole. It was the first ace at the Players Championship since 2008 and the first at the eighth since 2000 ... Woods has never recorded a bogey-free round at this event ... Defending champion Matt Kuchar carded a 1-under 71 on Thursday to sit in a large group tied for 54th place.