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Folks, we have a great golf tournament on our hands. The Players Championship got off to a rousing start on Thursday, with TPC Sawgrass more than holding its own. As the field struggled to an average of 73.9, the highest opening round at the Players since 2007, Sergio García put up a phenomenal round of 65. Leaderboard

Given the recent stretch of firm setups we’ve seen on the PGA Tour, we were cautiously optimistic that Sawgrass would be well presented this week. On Thursday, the Tour came through, and things may get even crispier and more entertaining over the weekend.

As is customary at the Stadium Course, no single skill set seemed to have an enormous advantage in the first round. One trend we did notice, however, was that those leading in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee are not the bombers we’re used to seeing at the top of that category. So far, eight of the top 10 players off the tee are outside the top 50 in that statistic for the 2020-21 season. Hell, Jordan Spieth, who may or may not be recovering from a case of the driver yips, is number one right now!

It’s not that distance isn’t a benefit at TPC Sawgrass. It’s more that the course demands excellence in many other areas, including driving accuracy. Bombs alone won’t see you through on this Pete Dye design.

The firm greens showed their teeth on Thursday, as those who were less than precise on approach received heavy punishment. More than 30 balls found a watery grave on No. 17 during the first round alone. With dry conditions and moderate winds expected this weekend, TPC Sawgrass could get even scarier.

A leaderboard featuring diverse playing styles and a golf course primed for battle: hold on to your hats, this may be a Players Championship to remember.

Quick Hooks

David Law, Thomas Detry, and Garrick Higgo are among the names in the mix through one round at the European Tour’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Leaderboard

While it’s a massive undertaking that likely would not be feasible every week on the PGA Tour, Every Shot Live—a platform that delivers what its name promises—has been a terrific way to explore the action at TPC Sawgrass. Kudos to everyone who made it happen.

After losing a battle to Bryson at Bay Hill, 47-year-old Lee Westwood (69) is back in contention at TPC Sawgrass.

Speaking of Bryson, he tied Westwood with 69 of his own on Thursday. Golf.com’s Sean Zak also noted that the big man is working with a dietician to measure his “chew rate.” It had been nearly a week since DeChambeau had said something incredibly strange, so this comes as a relief.

Don’t look now, but Jordan Spieth is lurking at the Players Championship. He didn’t even hit his irons well on Thursday…

A foursome of European stalwarts—Rory McIlroy (79), Tyrrell Hatton (76), Ian Poulter (77), and Henrik Stenson (85)—posted disappointing numbers on Thursday at the Players. Poulter released this rather amusing video from the players lounge afterwards.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

Where to Play Your USGA Qualifier – The Players is nice, but you could actually qualify for a U.S. Mid-Am, a U.S. Amateur, or even a U.S. Open! Okay, you probably won’t. But maybe you’ll play in a qualifier? Maybe you’ll… imagine how fun it would be to play in a qualifier? Anyway, the point is, USGA chose a lot of terrific qualifying sites for its 2021 championships, and Meg Adkins has a tour of a bunch of them.

The Fried Egg Podcast: How Your Personality Shapes Your Golf Game

Kiel Alderink is a PGA Professional and one of Golf Digest’s top instructors under the age of 40. Along with mental coach John Weir, he founded Mental Golf Type, a company that uses personality psychology to help golfers practice and play better. Kiel also happens to be Andy Johnson’s longtime golf coach. In this episode, Kiel and Andy discuss the underrated influence of personality type on teaching and performance in golf. They also talk about that time Andy hit it so far left at the U.S. Mid Am that a bus tried to pick them up. Check out Kiel’s work at mentalgolftype.com. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: JT’s Fulminating on Firmness, Bobby Mac Facts, and Flashback to the Cajun Kiwi

This Friday episode begins with an update on the other Players Championship, where there are multiple Coetzees in the field. Then Andy and Brendan react to the opening round at TPC Sawgrass, where Sergio went low and others imploded. They discuss the course setup, Rory’s potential abdication, the Every Shot Live feature, the pin at 17, and Justin Thomas’s gripe about inconsistent firmness at that island green. There’s also chatter on the gambling gripes on rounds not finishing before darkness suspensions. Kevin Na is labeled as the opposite of Westy—unsporting—following his WD. Then, in honor of the great Fan Vote history at the Players, there’s a Fan Vote Friday Jr. segment highlighting the legend of Bobby Mac, who is making his Players debut this week. They close with Flashback Friday, and the subject is the Cajun Kiwi himself, the man who brought “The Town Crier” nickname to your PGA Tour Live broadcast. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

The forecast for this weekend at the Players calls for lots of sun. Make sure you’re protected with a Fried Egg bucket hat. Get yours today!