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Jordan Spieth, Jason Day use mid-round surge to stay in position at Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — For Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, Thursday looked like bringing a turnaround at the turn.

The mid-round surges faded but didn’t spoil the afternoon for the seasoned major champions at the Players Championship, with Spieth finishing the opening round with a 3-under 69 and Day a stroke further back at 70.

Competition at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was suspended due to darkness at 6:28 p.m.

At times, Thursday felt like a return to glory days for Day and Spieth. At others, at least for Spieth, it felt like a missed opportunity.

“It’s just one of those places where I felt like the way I played was really good a lot of times, and then I look at the board here, and I’m like, huh, I’m not even in the top 10,” Spieth said. “That’s just the way this tournament has been for me. I’m not going to try and do anything differently, try and force anything more, it’s just I felt like I played what would have been at least that last week, and for some reason it doesn’t yield a lower score out here.”

For both, the recent struggles are well-documented, both in Ponte Vedra and beyond.

Jason Day walks to the tee of hole 17 during the first round of The Players golf tournament play Thursday, March 9, 2023, at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The 35-year-old Day, winner of the Players in 2016, hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship, and has now slipped to 43rd in the World Golf Ranking. Spieth, 29, stands higher in the ranking at 15th, but only two of his 13 wins on the Tour have come within the past five years.

Still, Thursday’s performance brought cause for encouragement, despite moments of frustration.

“I’m playing better now, but I didn’t play it any differently,” Spieth said. “This course, you don’t have a lot of like risk-reward opportunities. You just have to hit it to here, then you have to hit it to there, and you’ve got to be precise with multiple shots in a row.”

Overcoming a soggy double-bogey at 7, Day surged at the turn — birdies on 9, 10 and 12 — to climb onto the leaderboard at 3-under. But trouble struck on the par-5 16th: He missed left off the tee, drifted rightward into the water with his second and made bogey.

Spieth, meanwhile, launched a string of three consecutive birdies after the turn at 10, 11 and 12. His momentum hit a speed bump after finding rough at 14, but he birdied 16 to finish five behind leader Chad Ramey.

For most of the past decade, Spieth has endured frustration at the Stadium Course, missing five cuts in seven years since his fourth-place debut in 2014. He’s hopeful that the first round marks his turning point.

“Hopefully, just trying to turn around the next 10 years of my history at this tournament from the last 10,” he said. “I have had a chance to win a couple times, and that’s the goal is just try and shoot a good score tomorrow and then progress through the weekend.”

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