May 7, 2015 - 1:29pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Brooks Koepka
USA Today Sports Images
Brooks Koepka's first round in the Players Championship on Thursday was one he won't soon forget, both for how good it was at times and how bad it was at times.

The first round of the Players Championship was a colorful one for Brooks Koepka at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday.

Koepka, winner of the Waste Management Open earlier this season, is teeing it up in his first Players Championship this week. No doubt, it'll be a while before he forgets his debut which at times was sensational and -- at other times -- downright dreadful.

Playing the back nine first, Koepka opened with a bogey, but bounced right back with a birdie on No. 11. After pars on 12 and 13, things got, well, a little insane.

RELATED: Players Championship leaderboard | 5 to watch | Rory eagles No. 16

Koepka lost his tee shot on the par-4 14th hole. That led to a double bogey to go 2 over for the round. He quickly canceled out the double with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.

Then, like it does for a lot of players at TPC Sawgrass, things got ugly at the par-3 17th. After hitting his tee ball and his penalty drop shots both in the water, Koepka was finally on the green in five shots and two-putted for a quadruple-bogey 7.

The bleeding didn't stop there. Kopeka, on the difficult par-4 18th hole, hit his third shot in the water from 141 yards out. On the green in five, Koepka three-putted for a quadruple-bogey 8 and an outward 8-over 44. In the span of two holes, he went from even par to 8 over.

With a bogey at the first hole -- his ninth of the day -- Koepka went to 9 over.

Ever the competitor, he went on to birdie three out of his next five holes and then parred the final two for an inward 2-under 34 and a 6-over 78 total.

It's not often pros have six birdies on the card and shoot a 78.

Sure, not the greatest start in the world, but a heck of a bounce back for Koepka who certainly did not pack it in.

Here's a look at the card:


Wild first round for Koepka at Players Championship
May 7, 2015 - 12:57pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
Here's a look back to the 2001 Players Championship when Tiger Woods holed arguably the best putt ever struck during the tournament on the 17th green.

Over the years, there have been countless great shots hit at TPC Sawgrass during the Players Championship.

A couple of days ago, I referenced back to the Fred Couples "hole-in-three" at the par-3 17th, when after hitting his initial tee shot in the water in 1999, Couples re-teed and proceeded to hole-out for the most unlikely of pars.

RELATED: Players Championship leaderboard | 5 to watch | Rory eagles No. 16

Another shot -- on that very same hole -- that immediately comes to mind during Players Championship week is the famous "better than most" putt, called by announcer Gary Koch, struck by Tiger Woods on his way to winning the tournament for the first time in 2001.

Here's another look at that magnificent putt:

Woods, who won the last time he played at TPC Sawgrass in 2013, tees off for the first round of the Players Championship this afternoon at 1:49 along with Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott.


Looking back: Tiger's 'better than most' putt
May 7, 2015 - 11:13am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Sports Images
Par 5s are a little easier to play when you hit second shots into the green like Rory McIlroy did on No. 16 at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday.

Fresh off a win last week in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park, it looks like Rory McIlroy has carried that momentum into this week's Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass early on.

RELATED: Players Championship leaderboard | 5 to watch | Hadley gets Bubba's autograph

Playing the back nine first on Thursday, McIlroy ran off five consecutive pars. He birdied the 15th hole to get it under par and then made this masterful eagle on the par-5 16th hole:


What a smooth approach that was. At the time of this post, McIlroy was 3 under though eight holes after a par at the island-green, par-3 17th.

Check out McIlroy's eagle on No. 16 at TPC Sawgrass
May 7, 2015 - 9:40am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Chesson Hadley
Chesson Hadley has proven himself to be a funny guy on the PGA Tour, whether at his own expense, or pranking a fellow player.

Chesson Hadley is sneakily becoming one of the funniest guys on the PGA Tour.

During PGA Championship week last year, The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon handed out PGA Tour Superlatives. You can see the video below.


RELATED: Players Championship leaderboard | Auclair's 5 to watch | Mother's Day gifts

Hadley was a part of the piece:

Showing he has a sense of humor, Hadley later tweeted this response:


Well played, no doubt.

On Wednesday at the Players Championship, Hadley decided to pull a prank (if you want to call it that) on two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson.

Hadley, disguised as a ridiculously giddy fan with his hat turned backwards at TPC Sawgrass, stood along the ropes as Watson was walking past and begging for an autograph. Like many, Hadley scored Watson's John Hancock:


The best part of the video was the fact that Watson never looked up and had no idea it was Hadley.

Also, I love the text in the tweet about how disappointed he is to be playing for a $10 million purse this week in which the winner scores a cool $1.8 million.

If the golf career doesn't work out for Hadley (it will), you might one day be seeing him in a comedy club near you.

Hadley, playing giddy fan, scores Watson's autograph
Jessica Korda via Twitter


LPGA Tour player Jessica Korda found herself in Japan a few days ago, when she noticed that Taylor Swift was playing a concert there. So Jess hit Taylor up on Twitter:



Swifty responded swiftly:
So Jessica went to the concert in Tokyo, where she hung out with Taylor backstage:
And then during the concert, Taylor twirled a golf club during one of her songs. Was that a shoutout to Jessica? Well, maybe. But seeing as how she was singing "Blank Space," the club was a nod to her video of that song, in which she hammers her boyfriend's car with an iron.
Jessica caught Taylor's club twirl on video:
And you can see Taylor's video here (the club-swinging begins at about 3:10):
Given Taylor's obvious ease with an iron, it seems like maybe she and Jessica could plan their next get-together on the golf course. And if Taylor needs a lesson or two, I bet Jessica knows a guy – her swing coach, after all, is David Leadbetter.
Jessica Korda hangs with Taylor Swift in Japan
May 6, 2015 - 8:25am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
USA Today Sports Images
With a win last week at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, Rory McIlroy arrives at TPC Sawgrass riding high on confidence.

The PGA Tour is home this week -- TPC Sawgrass, the Tour's headquarters -- for the Players Championship.

While TPC Sawgrass may be best known for its world-famous, par-3 17th hole, it's fair to say that the rest of the course isn't all that shabby either -- one of the best on Tour in fact.

Featuring one of the strongest fields of the year, the Players Championship is understandably held in high regard amongst the guys on the PGA Tour. Martin Kaymer returns this week as the defending champion, while 2013 winner Tiger Woods makes his first start since a tie for 17th at the Masters. Woods -- out nursing back to health from back surgery -- missed out on his title defense a year ago.

RELATED: Players Championship tee times | Sleepless nights for Woods | Spieth could make statement

At TPC Sawgrass, you're likely to see a host of superstars on the first page of the leaderboard in the late stages on Sunday.

Here are five of those stars you're going to want to watch.

5. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2 at the Masters
Reason to watch: Not including his runner-up finish at the Masters, it's been a rather forgettable season for Lefty. But, that's the thing about Mickelson these last few years -- he shows up at the biggest events and the Players Championship, while not one of the big four, is right up there. Somewhat surprisingly, the 2007 Players Champion has missed the cut in each of his last two starts at TPC Sawgrass. We all know he's got his sights set on winning the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay a little over a month from now to complete the career grand slam. Now is the time to start building some confidence.

4. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2 at the Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: Kuchar snapped an uncharacteristic run of rough starts with a fifth-place finish at the RBC Heritage. But, the former Players Champion comes to TPC Sawgrass this week after an early exit at TPC Harding. Even so, I'm not worried. Through the years, Kuchar has been solid at TPC Sawgrass. With the consistency he's had there, it's hard to imagine Kuchar not figuring into the equation come late Sunday.

3. Sergio Garcia
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2 at the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: Garcia hasn't missed a cut in eight starts this season on the PGA Tour. He's a past champion at TPC Sawgrass and so often has his name in the mix, including last year when he finished third. It seems, a lot of years, TPC Sawgrass brings out the best in Garcia. Garcia hasn't had a great tournament since back in February when he tied for fourth at the Northern Trust Open. It's time to get things back on track.

2. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the Valspar Championship and the Masters
Reason to watch: In his first start at the Players Championship one year ago, the reigning Masters champion finished in a tie for fourth. That's impressive. And since then, Spieth has only gotten better. The 21-year-old arrives at TPC Sawgrass following an early exit in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship last week. That may have been -- in hindsight -- just what Spieth needed since things have been so hectic since his win at Augusta National. Now that he's had a little time to rest, Spieth should come out reenergized. Early on in his career, it looks like the sky is the limit for Spieth... so why not at a Players Championship to the resume this week?

1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Up until last week, it had been a disappointing season for the world's No. 1 player. It wasn't a bad one, but whenever he plays now, McIlroy expects to win. He finally notched his first victory in the match play format over at TPC Harding. I think that was just the shot of confidence McIlroy needed to get on another one of his rolls. He also returns to TPC Sawgrass having finished in the top-8 in each of the last two seasons. The course is arguably designer Pete Dye's finest. McIlroy won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in 2012 -- another Dye gem. Sure, the terrain of those two courses couldn't be more different, but the focus Dye demands is the same. In a career that's had plenty of them already, I think this could be another "statement" week for McIlroy.  

5 players to watch at TPC Sawgrass