Rory McIlroy dealing with sore back again

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Sergio Garcia aced No. 17 Thursday in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

McIlroy was just five shots off the clubhouse lead when he finished his round, but ended the day nine adrift of former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and American Kyle Stanley.

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, holds his ball after making a hole-in-one on the 17th hole, during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

"Today I was able to free up a little bit and hit some really good shots so hopefully I will be able to do more of the same tomorrow".

"It was nice to see it bounce and kind of spin back into the hole". "I maybe should have just taken it a bit easier over the weekend, but I was excited to get back".

"I do. Wouldn't you?"

"It was a matter of having a good day. It's one of my favourite golf courses we play all year and, for some reason, I can see what I want to do", Garcia said.

Hughes had a solid round of five birdies and no bogeys. He is also a one-time victor, capturing the 2017 RSM Classic in October.

He made it sound simple, even though the Players Stadium Course can be anything but that.

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After his round, Garcia said: "It was very windy - not very consistent with the wind either". He missed par putts of 7, 6 and just under 10 feet on those three holes. I've been putting well all week.

While Garcia played himself back into contention, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson were unable to make positive moves.

That goes for Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, who looked as though he might have a chance to at least get in the mix until tiny mistakes led to bogeys, and a big mistake led to double bogey on the 16th hole. "But the one thing that will keep me from going for it a lot is the area of the bunker and the front edge of the green, the way takes off into the water. I feel really good over the putter", Holmes said. Harris English never got anything going and wound up with an 84. "I hit a lot of good shots today". "It was a tough day out there", Day said. "But I'm OK with the round".

Phil Mickelson decided on a novel approach to this year's Players Championship after missing the cut the past four years.

Johnson has spent much of the last two seasons learning to improve his short game, as he explained at last year's Tour Championship.

2016 Masters champion Danny Willett has withdrawn from the Players Championship at Sawgrass, saying his "body and mind need a rest".

NOTES: There were 18 balls hit into the water in the first round at the island green 17th hole. He starts the final day in a tie for seventh at 5-under 211, four shots out of the lead. "I think it shows probably in my attitude on the course". Told that no one had made eagle on both par 5s on the back nine in the opening round, McGirt didn't have an answer. Norman came the closest in 1994 with a single bogey in the final round on No. 13.

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