PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – 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.