Si Woo Kim is Asia’s top man at PLAYERS, debutant Ramey leads Morikawa
Khel Today Bureau
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla: Debutant Chad Ramey held the lead in the first round of the 2023 PLAYERS Championship as he cruised through a round of 8-under 64 at the TPC Sawgrass course. Ramey was one ahead of two-time major champion Collin Morikawa as almost half the field went under or better.
Rory McIlroy, looking at getting back his World No. 1 tag began with a disappointing 76 that started with a double bogey 6 on Par-4 first and ended with a bogey 6 on Par-5 18th. The 2019 champion was 4-over 76 and lying tied 118th, facing the threat of a missed cut.
The World No. 1 player Jon Rahm opened with a 71 while second-ranked Scottie Scheffler shot a 68 and McIlroy, the third player in their group, who is also the reigning FedExCup carded a 76.
Ramey qualified for his first PLAYERS Championship by winning in the Dominican Republic last year.
Another first-timer doing well was Min Woo Lee who shot 68 and was tied sixth.
Morikawa has missed two cuts in his last three starts, so is keen to make up for that.
Asia’s best came from Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who wore a big smile after signing for an opening 3-under 69 at the PGA Tour’s flagship $ 25 million event which features virtually all the world’s top stars. Kim’s countryman Byeong Hun An, who welcomed a baby girl earlier this week, was the next best Asian performer following a 71 while debutant Tom Kim carded a disappointing 74.
The 27-year-old Si Woo Kim knew he could have blown his chances early on for a second title at the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament at TPC Sawgrass but kept a cool head for a solid start in the US$25 million showpiece. Kim was 4-under through 13 holes before he ran into three straight bogeys on 15-16-17 but a closing birdie eased some of the pain and he was ted 12th at 3-under 69.
Indian-American Sahith Theegala, who reached the Tour Championship last year, shot 2-under 70 and tied 19th.
A four-time TOUR winner, Kim made history by becoming the youngest PLAYERS champion in 2017. He had opened with a 69 as well six years ago and is hoping for history to repeat itself.
“It always feels great coming back,” said Kim, who won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. “This was my second career win here, the fifth major. It’s like my home course. Everything feels great now, everything feels comfortable. Pretty much have full confidence this week.”
Compatriot An was disappointed to bogey his last hole for a 71. He said, “It was very sloppy. I didn’t hit it as good as I wanted. It’s weird as I thought I was hitting it great. I feel like it should be a 2 or 3 under round,” said the 31-year-old, who played his way back onto the PGA TOUR through the Korn Ferry Tour last season.
Hayden Buckley aced the famous island green at the 17th . Aaron Wise lost four balls in a span of two holes – the first in the water on the 17th and then three into the water to the left of the 18th fairway, where he had a 10.
Xander Schauffele, who has missed the cut last three times at PLAYERS was 4-over through 10 holes but followed with an eagle on the 11th and added three other birdies to get back to 72.
Taylor Pendrith and Ben Griffin were at 67, while Justin Suh also was at 5 under with three holes to finish before darkness suspended play.