Friday, May 10, 2013


             ROBERTO CASTRO ... Not well known on US Tour
                         Picture by courtesy of Getty Images (c)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida -- Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy had their best start ever Thursday in THE PLAYERS Championship. It still wasn't enough to catch Roberto Castro, who had never played TPC Sawgrass and made a debut he won't soon forget.

Castro hit shots into tap-in range on the famed 17th and 18th holes on his way to a 9-under 63 in perfect scoring conditions in the morning. He tied the course record held by Fred Couples and Greg Norman, and it gave him a three-shot lead -- the largest 18-hole margin in 21 years at Sawgrass -- over McIlroy and Zach Johnson.
"I hit it close a lot," said Castro, making it sound as easy as it looked.

Woods had to work a little harder in the afternoon, when a breeze arrived and the sun began to make the greens firm. Even so, he was on the cusp of his first bogey-free round in his 16 years at THE PLAYERS until his 8-iron from 200 yards went just over the green and he flubbed his chip. The bogey gave him a 67, which was the first time he has broken 70 in the opening round at Sawgrass.

"It was a day that I felt I had to shoot something in the 60s," Woods said. "Most of the guys were under par in the morning session."

Half of the players who played early broke par, a rarity at this tournament. So ended a first round filled with plenty of action -- a record-tying score by a player hardly anyone knows, McIlroy breaking par for the first time at Sawgrass, 15 balls in the water around the island-green 17th and 33 rounds in the 60s.

Padraig Harrington followed an eagle with a double bogey. Michael Thompson made a hole-in-one.

But it all started with Castro, a 27-year-old who felt like he couldn't miss. His record-tying score was posted as players were on the practice range getting ready to tee off in the afternoon, making it tough to stay patient on a course that demands it. Woods was nine shots behind before he hit his first shot.

"I've seen that a lot, but not at this golf course," he said.

He did well to get within four shots. Woods, Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer at 67 had the lowest round among those who played late, and they now turn around and get the morning conditions -- hopeful they'll be the same -- on Friday.

McIlroy also played in the morning, in the same group as Masters champion Adam Scott (69) and Steve Stricker (67).

The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland had never made the cut or even broken par at THE PLAYERS, but McIlroy figured it out on a gorgeous morning by dialing it back off the tee and letting his iron play take over. McIlroy never came seriously close to a bogey, and he didn't hit driver once on the front nine.

"When you hit the shots, it seems very simple," McIlroy said. "I had a lot of good shots out there, lot of iron shots that were 12, 15 feet away from the pin and I got myself a lot of looks for birdies. I adopted maybe more of a conservative strategy off the tee this year. But once you put your ball in the fairway that means you can be more aggressive into the greens. So it sort of balances itself out."

The Stadium Course has rarely looked so vulnerable with barely a trace of wind and some pins in bowls that allowed for good looks at birdie. Half the 72 players in the morning broke par.

But the punishment is never far away, as Scott Stallings discovered. He opened with five straight birdies to get everyone's attention, but after going out in 31, Stallings gave most of it back with a bogey, double bogey and a triple bogey on the 16th when he hit two balls into the water. He shot 40 on the back for a 71.

"It just goes to show about the golf course and really how volatile it is," Stallings said.

Castro hasn't discovered that yet. This was a day when everything went right.

He made three birdies early in his round on the back until making his tap-in birdies on the 17th and 18th. Then, he hit 3-iron into 3 feet on the par-5 second hole for an eagle and was 7 under through 11 holes. On the fourth, he hit his approach inside 2 feet for another birdie, and then he hit wedge to 18 inches on the sixth.

Castro had a birdie putt just outside 12 feet to break the course record, but missed it.

After his eagle on the second hole -- his 11th hole of the round -- Castro was reminded of a game he plays to try to birdie every other hole.

"When I eagled, I was like, `Oh, now I'm 7 (under) through 11, so that's keeping ahead of that 50 percent mark.' But this is a different golf course," he said. "The golf course is much harder than most of the other times I've kind of taken that attitude."

Couples shot his 63 in 1992 in the third round. Norman opened with a 63 in 1994 when he went on to shatter the tournament record at 24-under 264. Along with joining them in the record book, Castro matched the record set by Billy Ray Brown in 1992 with his three-shot lead after one round.

Castro is not well known even in golf circles. His mother grew up in Peru and moved to America as a teenager along with her sister, Jenny Lidback, who played the LPGA Tour. Castro also has a industrial engineering degree from Georgia Tech.

Woods wasn't pleased with how he struck the ball, only with where he missed it. Despite missing six greens, he was left with straightforward shots to save par. The only blemish came at the end, when his 56-degree wedge came up heavy into the grain and failed to reach the putting surface.

1 Roberto Castro 63

T2 Zach Johnson 66

T2 Rory McIlroy 66

T4 Casey Wittenberg 67

T4 Hunter Mahan 67

T4 Steve Stricker 67

T4 Ryan Palmer 67

T4 Webb Simpson 67

T4 Tiger Woods 67

T10 Jason Bohn 68

T10 Henrik Stenson 68

T10 David Lingmerth 68

T10 Greg Chalmers 68

T10 Padraig Harrington 68

T10 Sergio Garcia 68

T10 Sang-Moon Bae 68

T17 Jason Kokrak 69

T17 Jason Day 69

T17 Ben Crane 69

T17 Kevin Streelman 69

T17 Louis Oosthuizen 69

T17 Russell Henley 69

T17 Adam Scott 69

T17 Bo Van Pelt 69

T17 Andres Romero 69

T17 Nicholas Thompson 69

T17 Kevin Chappell 69

T17 Daniel Summerhays 69

T17 Jonas Blixt 69

T17 Ben Curtis 69

T17 Lee Westwood 69

T17 K.J. Choi 69

T17 Michael Thompson 69

T34 Peter Hanson 70

T34 Jeff Maggert 70

T34 William McGirt 70

T34 Cameron Tringale 70

T34 Justin Leonard 70

T34 George McNeill 70

T34 Keegan Bradley 70

T34 Graeme McDowell 70

T34 John Huh 70

T34 Sean O'Hair 70

T34 Matt Jones 70

T34 Matt Every 70

T34 Charley Hoffman 70

T34 Seung-yul Noh 70

T34 Davis Love III 70

T34 Carl Pettersson 70

T34 Chris Kirk 70

T34 Scott Piercy 70

T34 James Hahn 70

T34 Harris English 70

T54 Ken Duke 71

T54 Chad Campbell 71

T54 Jerry Kelly 71

T54 Scott Stallings 71

T54 Ricky Barnes 71

T54 Boo Weekley 71

T54 Charles Howell III 71

T54 Jason Dufner 71

T54 Matt Kuchar 71

T54 Martin Laird 71

T54 Brandt Snedeker 71

T54 Tim Herron 71

T54 Graham DeLaet 71

T54 Jeff Overton 71

T68 Josh Teater 72

T68 Brian Harman 72

T68 Jimmy Walker 72

T68 Tim Clark 72

T68 Jim Furyk 72

T68 D.A. Points 72

T68 Brian Gay 72

T68 Charlie Beljan 72

T68 Marc Leishman 72

T68 Fredrik Jacobson 72

T68 Phil Mickelson 72

T68 Justin Rose 72

T68 Luke Donald 72

T68 Charl Schwartzel 72

T68 Robert Garrigus 72

T68 David Hearn 72

T68 David Lynn 72

T68 Brendon de Jonge 72

T86 Branden Grace 73

T86 Lucas Glover 73

T86 Rickie Fowler 73

T86 Bubba Watson 73

T86 Ernie Els 73

T86 Robert Allenby 73

T86 Dicky Pride 73

T86 John Senden 73

T86 Thorbjorn Olesen 73

T86 Y.E. Yang 73

T86 Martin Kaymer 73

T86 Brian Stuard 73

T86 Chris Stroud 73

T99 Francesco Molinari 74

T99 Bryce Molder 74

T99 Mark Wilson 74

T99 Brendan Steele 74

T99 Angel Cabrera 74

T99 Derek Ernst 74

T99 Dustin Johnson 74

T99 John Merrick 74

T99 Charlie Wi 74

T99 Jonathan Byrd 74

T99 Scott Brown 74

T99 J.J. Henry 74

T99 Pat Perez 74

T99 Vijay Singh 74

T113 Troy Matteson 75

T113 Kyle Stanley 75

T113 Geoff Ogilvy 75

T113 Tommy Gainey 75

T113 James Driscoll 75

T113 Gonzalo Fernandez-Casta 75

T113 Ted Potter Jr. 75

T113 Rory Sabbatini 75

T113 Bill Haas 75

T113 Ian Poulter 75

T123 Luke Guthrie 76

T123 Billy Horschel 76

T123 Richard H. Lee 76

T123 Martin Flores 76

T123 Stewart Cink 76

T123 Nick Watney 76

T123 Ryan Moore 76

T123 Greg Owen 76

T123 Scott Langley 76

T132 John Rollins 77

T132 Johnson Wagner 77

T132 Will Claxton 77

T132 Tom Gillis 77

T136 Aaron Baddeley 78

T136 Brian Davis 78

T136 Joe Daley 78

T136 David Mathis 78

T136 Kevin Stadler 78

T136 Bud Cauley 78

T142 David Toms 79

T142 Colt Knost 79

144 Erik Compton 80

145 Retief Goosen*



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