Byrd Opens Strong at Players

Jonathan Byrd was three shots off the pace after Day One of the 2012 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fl.  Byrd trailed co-leaders Ian Poulter of England, who dropped a cool 7-under 65 on the field early Thursday, and Scotsman Martin Laird, who matched him later in the day.

Byrd, the 2007 John Deere Classic champion, chipped in for eagle on the par 5 9th hole to turn in 3-under par 33 and proceeded to add four more birdies on the back.  However, he all but canceled out his good play with three bogeys on the back.  In the end he finished the day at 4-under par, good for an 11-way tie for sixth.

2005 JDC champion Sean O'Hair was tied for 17th after one day along with 1997 Quad City winner David Toms.  Both shot 3-under 69. John Deere Classic executive board member Zach Johnson shot 2-under 70 and is in a nine-way tie for 28th. 

All were ahead of Tiger Woods, who shot 2-over 74 and is tied for 100th.  Woods is in danger of missing his second consecutive cut for the first time in his career.

Phil Mickelson shot 1-under 71 and is T-38.  Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world, respectively, both shot even par and are among 24 players tied for 55th.

Meanwhile, three-time JDC defending champion Steve Stricker found the tough Pete Dye-designed golf course particularly "diabolical," opening with an out-of-character 4-over par 76.  

Stricker, who normally hits 70 percent of his greens in regulation, hit only 61 percent Thursday.  He normally averages 4.25 birdies per round (sixth best on Tour); on Thursday he made only one.  Worse, he made three bogeys and doubled No. 16, which is regarded as one of the "easy" holes on a very difficult layout.

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