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Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, watches his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Matsuyama Led First Round of Players Before Cancellation

Before coronavirus concerns dominated the headlines of the sporting world, Hideki Matsuyama played a fantastic round of golf at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday. The PGA Tour announced the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship late Thursday night. However, that didn’t stop golfers from getting in a first round of play.

After one round, Matsuyama sat atop the leaderboard at -9, tying the course record at TPC Sawgrass and recording eight birdies. Behind him, there was a three-way tie for second place at -7 between Harris English, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim. 

Course Record

Thursday’s round 1 was Matsuyama’s first round at the Player’s Championship. And he didn’t disappoint. The five-time PGA Tour winner hit 8 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. Matsuyama was excellent on the green, as well, making all of his putts within 10 feet.

Hideki garnered a lot of his success off the front nine, posting a 30 (-6) through the first nine holes. He capped that red-hot start off with an eagle on the ninth hole, pouring in a 25-foot eagle. From there, he birdied the next four holes to jump to -10 on the day.

The only thing standing between Matsuyama and the course record at TPC Sawgrass was his bogey on the 16th. His only bogey of the day, Matsuyama couldn’t make par on the par-five 16th hole and dropped to -9 through round 1 where he eventually finished at.

Despite making just his first appearance at the Players Championship, Matsuyama has recorded four top-10 performances this season and finds himself at 10th in the FedEx Cup standings.

Other Notables

Christiaan Bezuidenhout continued his hot hand with another round among the leaders on Thursday. The young South African finished in a tie for 18th at Bay Hill, after keeping pace with the leaders on Thursday and Friday. 

Scottish golfer Russell Knox didn’t get off to the best start on Thursday. After attempting a 34-foot putt for birdie on the first hole, Knox 5-putted to end with a triple bogey. Despite that horrid start, however, Knox was able to battle back to finish with a +1 first round.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka both struggled to get anything going in their rounds. McIlroy finished at even on the day, while Koepka recorded a -2.

Pausing the TOUR

Along with their announcement to cancel the Players Championship, the PGA Tour decided to cancel their next three events as well. That includes the Valspar Championship, which is also hosted in Florida. Senior ESPN golf writer Bob Harig speculates on where the PGA Tour can go from here.

PGA-Coronavirus-Unknown Whether Tournament will be Rescheduled

Many have already begun to speculate about the Masters coming up on April 9. The Masters is the grand jewel of golf and the season’s first major. Seasoned veteran Rory McIlroy has already called for the Masters to be played without spectators. He has been very outspoken on his fear for the coronavirus.

Even a lack of spectators would be a blow to the grandness of the event. Harris English, who was tied for second through round 1, spoke on how he anticipated the lack of spectators would feel.

Of course, the PGA Tour was just one of many professional sporting leagues to cancel their operations for the time being. The NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS all suspended their leagues, and the NCAA canceled their spring championships, as well.

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