Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Still struggling with back injury, Rory McIlroy will undergo MRI on Monday

Still struggling with back injury, Rory McIlroy will undergo MRI on Monday

Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes played bogey-free in his debut at The Players Championship and shot five-under 67 to share the lead with William McGirt after an opening round that showed anew that the TPC Sawgrass has surprises around every corner.

J.B. Holmes, Alex Noren, Chez Reavie and Jon Rahm are a shot back at 68.

After returning from the first injury to the Mexico Championship, where he had the 36-hole lead and tied for seventh, McIlroy played four times in six weeks through the Masters, and then after his marriage, got right back to work.

Rory McIlroy could be facing another spell on the sidelines after admitting he is struggling with another back problem at The Players Championship.

"I'm happy because I've been a lot worse the last few years, so under par is good", Mickelson said. Despite his frustrations, Johnson salvaged a 71 with enough quality shots and some tremendous lag putts for par, including one from 88 feet on the par-4 15th hole.

Last year's Masters champion Danny Willett shot a 79.

Former world number one Day's title defence got underway with a two-under-par 70.

"The thing with this place is you hit one that lands four, five feet off the putting surface, there's no telling what's going to happen to it", said the 37-year-old journeyman, who secured his maiden PGA Tour victory last year at the Memorial tournament.

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He made par on the 18th - his ninth hole of the day - to go out in 40 strokes and appear destined to miss the cut. He is also a one-time victor, capturing the 2017 RSM Classic in October.

There have been changes to the Players Stadium Course, most notably the 12th hole that now is 50 yards shorter with water to the left to tempt players to drive the green.

Through it all, Hughes was rock solid. "To go bogey-free around this place is very hard to do, obviously, and when I started the day, I wouldn't have expected a round like that but I knew my game was trending".

"I just like the golf course".

Day was still just three shots back after he signed his first-round card. Playing in mid-90s temperatures with two more scrambling stars - Dustin Johnson (1 under) and Justin Thomas (1 over) - McIlroy played the final three holes 2 under to keep himself in the mix.

McGirt's flawless front nine, which yielded three birdies, inspired the American as he eagled the 11th and 16th holes in between bogeys at the 10th and the 18th. Three bogeys and two birdies landed him a 1-under 71. I could never really get any momentum.

"I hit a good shot, can do anything". "I just felt like I wanted to conserve energy and sharpen my game". The course definitely played tougher later in the day.

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