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Hal Sutton’s 69 Leads Players Golf

March 23, 2000

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Tiger Woods made his first double bogey in 223 holes. Hal Sutton was the only player to break 70. Both felt the same sense of relief after the first round of The Players Championship.

They survived.

Sutton figured out when to attack and when to take his lumps, firing a 3-under 69 in cool, blustery conditions Thursday. The score is the highest to lead the tournament in the 19 years it has been played on the TPC at Sawgrass.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, no stranger to demanding conditions, was among six players at 70. Woods, tied for the lead after 16 holes, hit into the water on the island-green 17th en route to the double bogey and a 71.

``That’s what makes this a major,″ Sutton said. ``Major championships ... you’ve got to be patient when conditions get difficult on a great golf course.″

And like a major, there were plenty of horror stories.

_Craig Stadler had a double-hit out of the rough on No. 12 that led to a triple bogey. He made another one on the 16th when he chunked a wedge about 4 feet, then got so fed up that he swatted his ball over the green and into the water.

At least it wasn’t moving, like what John Daly did in the U.S. Open last year.

``I did a few things I’ve never done,″ Stadler said.

_Chris Perry had a chance to tie for the lead with an eagle putt on No. 11. Four putts later, he walked off with a bogey.

_Defending champion David Duval bogeyed five of eight holes and had a 75.

``It’s not that great of a score,″ he said. ``I’m not particularly pleased. But at the same time, it’s not terrible on a day like this. It’s a long race.″

It could be a short week for those who signed for an 80 or worse _ at least 17 players, including Sergio Garcia (82) and Phil Mickelson (83).

``I’m very happy to get off the course,″ Billy Mayfair said after his 70. He was the only player to reach 4 under in the first round.

Woods, meanwhile, kept one streak alive. He still hasn’t broken 70 in 13 rounds on the Stadium Course, although he had few complaints.

Showing the power and control that has carried him to 10 victories in his last 16 events on the PGA Tour, Woods was tied with Sutton at 3-under when he stood on the 17th tee box, staring at the swaying palms and pines as he tried to gauge the wind.

His 9-iron started right, caught a gust and splashed down about 5 feet short of land. After taking a drop and putting his next shot some 40 feet above the hole, he had to make a 10-footer for his first double bogey since the third round of the Nissan Open.

He didn’t get mad. He certainly didn’t get even. Woods simply added up his score and figured anything under par wasn’t such a bad day.

``That’s why I wasn’t upset at all when the ball went in the water,″ he said. ``I figured I’d knock it up there, make my double, play 18 and still shoot a number in the red.″

Sutton’s 69 was the worst score to lead The Players Championship after the first round since a 70 by seven players, including Jack Nicklaus, in 1978 when it was played across the street at Sawgrass Country Club.

The wind blew about 20 mph, but consider two holes by Woods.

On the 535-yard 11th hole, he hit driver 348 yards and an 8-iron 190 yards to set up a two-putt birdie. On the 358-yard 12th hole, which goes the opposite direction, Woods hit driver and still had a wedge from about 100 yards to reach the green.

He birdied both, and needed them later.

``The golf course was showing its teeth out there,″ Sutton said. ``You couldn’t get through without making some bogeys.″

Most players would have been happy with that considering there were at least 139 scores of double bogey or worse.

Sutton avoided one on the fourth hole when his tee shot barely bounced into the rough, leaving him 120 yards to the green over a pond. He acted like it was a U.S. Open, pitching safely to the fairway to take double bogey out of the equation.

``You want to stay away from a big number if you can,″ he said. ``That’s what makes this golf course great. There’s always that urge to test it.″

Sutton picked his spots, hitting a 4-wood into 8 feet for an eagle on No. 2. He also had eagle attempts on the 11th and 16th, two-putting both of them, and hit a couple of 9-irons into 2 feet for routine birdies.

``This is a very penalizing course,″ Mickelson said. ``But obviously, some guys shot under par, so it couldn’t have been that unfair.″

Colin Montgomerie, who had a 75, said he sensed last week that the tournament was over when Woods was just one stroke back after the first round. No one was willing to concede anything to Woods on Thursday. They were too busy nursing their wounds.

The only surrender was to Sawgrass.

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