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Published September 12, 2015
Adam Scott waited on the 10th tee for his name to be called Thursday at The Players Championship, his first tournament since winning the Masters in a playoff for his first major championship.
It felt like just another tournament when the starter introduced him as ... the 2004 Players champion.
This is nothing new for The Players Championship, which treats every player equally unless they are a past champion of the event.
"The biggest disappointment of the day was the announcement on the first tee," Scott said with a grin, "because he didn't introduce me as the Masters champion."
Scott was kidding, though the omission did not go unnoticed by the guys who played with him.
"As soon as he hit and he came back, I was like, 'That was a little disappointing. I was kind of looking forward to you being announced as Masters champion,'" Steve Stricker said. "And he said, 'That's going to be the most disappointing thing all week.' So yeah, I was surprised they didn't announce him as that. He had a little chuckle out of it, too."
Rory McIlroy also was in the group and he knows the feeling. He won his first major at the 2011 U.S. Open, but his next start was the British Open and golf's oldest championship typically introduces a player and his country.
"It's still all right, because your name is on the trophy," McIlroy said.
And Scott still has the green jacket.
That made McIlroy wonder, however, if the starter had inserted something about every player at The Players Championship. He said for him it would have been, "Coming off three missed cuts in three tries, Rory McIlroy."
THE OLD MAN: Steve Stricker turned 47 this year and despite playing a limited schedule, he plays well. Playing in the group with Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy — he's nearly twice as old as McIlroy — he was shorter off the tee and doesn't have their brand of firepower, but he was efficient in finishing with a 67.
It helps being regarded as one of the best putters in golf, of course.
"I enjoy watching them," Stricker said. "They've got so much offense. I've got to do my things a little bit differently from how they do their things, but it's still effective for me. But it's fun to watch them how they can get really aggressive and dominate some holes if they want to, just like Adam did on No. 9. He just bombed it out there and hit iron there, and I've got 250 to the front."
Stricker and McIlroy spent a lot of time talking, which led to a question: What do a 47-year-old American and a 24-year-old from Northern Ireland talk about?
"We were talking about his girlfriend, Caroline," Stricker said.
McIlroy is dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and Stricker said his 14-year-old daughter, Bobbi Maria, and wife Nikki are big into tennis.
"I think we're going to the U.S. Open tennis this fall, so I asked kind of how she prepares and what kind of workout regimen she has and what their days are like," Stricker said. "Yeah, I don't care about Rory. I was asking about Caroline."
Despite their age differences, Stricker and McIlroy had one thing in common Thursday — they each made six birdies, all on the same holes. Stricker was the last to tee off when the round started, so he never hit first on any tee the entire round.
MAHAN RECOVERING: Hunter Mahan hasn't played on Sunday since the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He made an early exit from the Masters with rounds of 76-82, and while he made the cut at Hilton Head and Quail Hollow, he wound up missing the 54-hole cut (based on the size of the field) with scores of 78 and 76.
So his bogey-free round of 67 at The Players Championship was a good sign.
"I think I was just trying too hard," Mahan said. "I was trying to do a lot. I was trying to be this golfer that I picture myself being, and I can't do it in one day and I can't do it in one week or two weeks or three weeks. I'm just trying to play golf and get better every day and not really try to reach that limit of who I should be right now.
"You have to allow yourself to let it happen, and I feel like that's what I'm doing now."
Mahan said the 82 at Augusta National might have been good for him. He says he doesn't even know what he shot that day — except for when he signed his card — because he was going to miss the cut by a mile, anyway. Even so, it had an effect on him.
"I think it just made me kind of stop and think about what I'm doing," he said. "If I make the cut and finish 40th, I don't think I stop and try to make changes and realize what was going on. I was playing OK for a while, but I was still going down the wrong path."
LOVE RETURNS: Davis Love III played for the first time since surgery on his neck in February and opened with a 70.
"It was a weird feeling," said Love, a two-time winner at Sawgrass. "I was trying not to be excited, but I was excited and nervous, and it was a good day."
Love wasn't worried about his health, though he could have done without his start. He kept putting himself in spots where he had to dig the ball out of the rough, though he felt good after the shots and felt as though his strength had returned.
He had not played since withdrawing from the Phoenix Open after the first round. Love said he could have played the last few weeks at Hilton Head or Quail Hollow, but not at full strength, so he wasn't expecting any problems.
"I feel like this is a good day for me to get the nerves out of the way and just play. Maybe from here on out, it will be a little bit normal golf."
DIVOTS: Michael Thompson made the sixth hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole with a 3-iron from 233 yards. It was the first ace on the longest par 3 at Sawgrass since Ted Tryba and Joe Ozaki in the final round of 2000. "The skill is hitting the shot that I wanted to hit. The luck part of it is once it hit the green, anything can happen," he said. ... Bob Estes withdrew with an injury, allowing Scott Langley to make his Players Championship debut. Langley opened with a 76. ... Joe Daley, the Senior Players Championship winner who at 52 had never played this event, made only one birdie in his round of 78. ... Tiger Woods birdied all the par 5s for the first time since 2006. ... The 18th hole was the toughest in the opening round, except for Jason Dufner. He holed out from the fairway for a 2, only the third eagle on that hole in tournament history. ... Retief Goosen withdrew with a back injury. He was at even par through nine holes when he pulled out.