Dustin Johnson equalizes the course, record first nine
It was a tie for the course record that hardly anyone noticed.
While the eventual champion of the players Cameron Smith was holding back Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson rained down birdies and a spectacular eagle on the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on Monday, becoming the ninth in history to shoot 9-under 63.
Johnson finished tied for ninth at 7-under 281, his second top 10 at The Players in three years. He jumped 50 places in the standings.
Johnson started the day at No. 10 and tied for 59th after a third-round 76. He birdied at numbers 12, 16 and 18, and his only bogey of the day came at No. 15 after having visited the rough on the left side of the tee and into the green.
He then turned around and really stepped on the gas.
Johnson birdied No. 1 on a 23-foot putt and made up for a sloppy par-5 performance by draining a 42-footer for a birdie.
He added 13-foot-or-less birdie putts at No. 3, 6 and 7, then closed the day with a 67-yard corner for the Eagle at No. 9.
Johnson tied by Martin Kaymer 2014 record of 7 under 29 on the front nine. The last 63 was by Brooks Koepka in 2018. Johnson hit 10 fairways, 15 greens and only needed 25 putts.
“I played really solid,” he said with typical understatement. “Rolled in a few putts…obviously the throw on the last one was definitely a bonus.”
Johnson said the course record tie would have meant more if he was in contention.
“It was a tough week. I just made too many mistakes, also from the fairway,” he said. “It wasn’t even when I got out of position. I hit too many bad iron shots from the fairway. I still have a bit of work to do on the game, but obviously that’s where- in it, you just have to get it a little more cohesive.”
The defending champion’s hex remains
The reigning jinx players champion is now by Cameron Smith to break.
Justin Thomas, who was on the fringes of contention most of the week, shot his second 72 in a row on Monday at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and finished tied for 33rd at 3 under par 285. The 2021 champion reached equal level. for 11th following his 69 without a bogey in the second lap but made a double bogey in each of his last laps.
Continued:Despite extreme weather and a Monday finish, the Players Championship rebounded in a big way
Continued:Gene Frenette: Lahiri atop Players Championship leaderboard reflects global diversity
Thomas had an eagle on a 29-foot putt on the 16th hole, but then hit water on the No. 17 for a triple.
The defending champions’ best results remain tied for fifth par Jack Nicklaus (1977), Tom Kite (1990) and Hal Sutton (2000). Nicklaus finished four strokes behind Mark Hayes and Kite and Sutton were seven points clear of the eventual winner.
Marc McCumber tied for sixth in 1989 and was four strokes behind.
When Smith missed a 35-foot birdie putt attempt on the fifth hole on his final round, he snapped a four-straight birdie streak and ended a bid to become the first player to birdie the first five. holes in a row at the start of his turn at No. 1.
A player birdied successively on the first five, Paul Azinger in the first round in 1993. Azinger started his round at No. 10 that day and birdied at No. 18, then turned and birdied the first five. He put Azinger in the record books as one of only 11 players in tournament history to hit six holes in a row.
Azinger shot 68 that day and tied for sixth in the tournament.
Henley makes history
Russell Henley because the sixth player to make an albatross (a 2 on a par-5) in the final round when he stole his second shot in the hole at No. 11 at 240 yards.
He hadn’t finished.
Henley, who started his final round at No. 10, then made a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 17 from the second cut from rough. He spun and then hit the par-5 second hole on a nearly 38-foot putt, after hitting the green 256 yards out.
Henley became the first player to do two eagles in one spin at The Players, one of them being an albatross. He also became the 11th player to make three eagles in a tournament (he won the No. 2 in the first round).
Henley shot 68 and tied for 13th at 6-under 282.
Munoz disappears in the final round
Sebastien Munoz of Colombia had the lowest round of the tournament in the third round with a bogey-free 65, in which he hit 12 fairways and 15 greens. This placed him in the final group with Anirban Lahiri and Doug Ghim, just one shot on Lahiri’s lead but Colombia’s Munoz soon found himself playing uphill the rest of the day.
On his first hole at No. 1 he found a fairway trap, then laid his second shot behind a sawgrass bush near the green. An attempted flop shot only went two yards above the bush in the sand, followed by a fourth shot in the rough. He had his ups and downs for a double bogey.
At par 5, after hitting a solid tee shot, Munoz fired his approach shot 65 yards left of the hole under a tree and then failed to land a low punch on the green . He ended up missing a par putt from 14 feet down to 5 under and never came back in contention.
Munoz played the rest of his round tied and finished with a 77 and tied for 33rd at 3 under 285.
Sergio Island Time
Sergio Garcia had its moments on the 17th hole of the Stadium Course both good and bad.
But on Monday, he seemed to want to remember only the bad.
Garcia hit his tee shot into the water surrounding the Island Green at the end of his third round and took a double bogey 5. He had a good day before that, coming back from a birdie at No. 16 to raise it to 3 cents for the day.
When the ball splashed, Garcia ducked his head for a few seconds, then was heard saying on the live digital television stream: “The story of my life… the creepy story of my life.. . the creepy story of my life.”
Garcia, who finished with a 71 in the third round, may have overemphasized that shot, and times like 2013 when he found the water chasing Tiger Woods.
However, Garcia won the 2008 Players on a brilliant shot from 4ft away in sudden death against Paul Goydos and drained a putt over 50ft in the final round in 2015 that took him to a three-way playoff with the winner Ricky Fowler and Kevin Kisner.
Garcia came back in the fourth round and birdied the 17th on a 3-foot putt. He parried the No. 18 to complete his fourth round of 71 in the tournament, tied for 26th.
Pendrith leads Players rookies
Taylor Pendrith, a Canadian native and former Kent State player, was weak among rookie players. He birdied his first two holes and briefly peeked into the top 10, and finished with a 69 and tied for 13th at 6-under 282.
Four other Players rookies made the cut. Hank Lebioda tied for 63rd (4-over), Hayden Buckley tied for 66th (5-over), Lucas Herbert tied at 68th (7-over) and Lee Hodges finished 70th (9-over.
Hodges, who was alone in last place, won $41,000. It was more than Bruce Lietzke earned for finishing fourth in the first Players at the Stadium Course in 1982.