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 just 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.