PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Martin Kaymer stopped thinking, started swinging and played his way into the record book Thursday in The Players Championship.
Kaymer missed only two fairways. He putted for birdie on all but one hole. And the former PGA champion finished with four straight birdies to become only the fourth player to shoot 9-under 63 on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass, giving him a two-shot lead over Russell Henley.
Kaymer took advantage of a perfect day for scoring – warm weather, hardly any wind and soft greens.
There were 28 rounds in the 60s, which made the score by Adam Scott look even worse. With another chance – his best one yet – to get to No. 1 in the world for the first time, Scott finished with a pair of double bogeys from shots in the water and signed for a 77. It was his highest opening round at The Players since his first trip in 2002.
Kaymer was flawless, hitting whatever shot he felt he needed. His final blow was a hybrid that ran through the ninth green and into a bunker, leaving a simple up-and-down for birdie. He had a 29 on the back, the first player in the 32-year history at Sawgrass to break 30 on either nine.
Roberto Castro also opened with a 63 last year. The only others with 63 were Greg Norman in the first round in 1994, and Fred Couples in the third round in 1992.
“It’s just a nice bonus,” Kaymer said. “It’s only the first round of a long, long tournament. It’s nice to make some history. No one shot 29 on that golf course before.”
Kaymer would not have seemed like a good candidate.
He has not won since the HSBC Champions in Shanghai at the end of 2011. He hasn’t had a top 10 all year. But the 29-year-old German has felt his swing start to come together in recent weeks. His name has been featured on leaderboards more and more.
And he had a simple explanation.
“I stopped thinking,” Kaymer said, a former world No. 1. “I thought a lot the last two years about swing changes ... that every shot I made I reflect on it, what I did wrong, what I did right.”
A few weeks before the Masters, he spent time with longtime swing coach Gunter Kessler in Phoenix, and then they had another good session in Germany.
“And then it just clicked a little bit,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, I know I can hit pretty much every shot when I needed to hit it.’ If it’s a draw, if it’s a fade, low or high, I know that I can do it. It’s just a matter of getting the confidence on the golf course and then letting it happen and really doing it.”
Henley, who won the Honda Classic in a four-way playoff in March, made birdie on half of his holes to atone for one big mistake. He hooked a tee shot into the water on No. 7 and compounded that with a three-putt for double bogey. But he answered with six birdies on the back nine for a 65.
“I knew I was playing well and felt really comfortable on the greens,” Henley said. “But it was one of those back nines where you get to 18 and I just realized that I had a putt for 7 under. So that was pretty cool.”
Bae Sang-Moon had a 66.
Fog prevents any play in Madeira Islands Open
SANTO DA SERRA, Madeira Islands (AP) — The first round of the Madeira Islands Open was postponed after heavy fog prevented any play on the Santo da Serra course on Thursday.
Play was abandoned at 5 p.m. local time, leaving organizers hopeful of starting the European Tour’s 1,500th tournament on Friday.
While the capital Funchal was bathed in sunshine all day, visibility on the golf course, 2,300 feet above the city, was restricted to about 50 yards.
“It is a very unusual mini ecosystem here at this venue, and, while many of the holes on the course further down the mountain are clear, unfortunately some are still under fog,” tournament director Jose Maria Zamora said.