Players Championship leaderboard 2013: Rory McIlroy opens with 5-under front 9

Richard Heathcote

Multiple players are making a run at the tournament course record early on Thursday at The Players Championship.

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is vulnerable in Thursday's opening round and the best golfers in the world have taken advantage at the 2013 Players Championship. The red numbers started piling up first thing in the morning while most were still having breakfast, as Scott Stallings opened with five birdies on his first five holes. He made a push at the nine-hole record (a 30) but just missed and went out in 31. He has cooled off considerably since that start, but he demonstrated early that there were plenty of opportunities for players to shoot their way into the low-to-mid 60s.

One player who followed Stallings with an impressive first nine is Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 2 player who is still seeking his first 2013 win. Since he debuted with his new Nike clubs in Abu Dhabi in January, it's been a rough climb for Rory to find the same 2012 form that propelled him to No. 1. He looked solid last week at Quail Hollow, but he had missed the cut in his previous three appearances at TPC Sawgrass. His track record at Pete Dye courses, however, is not all bad as he won last year's PGA Championship (Kiawah) and BMW Championship (Crooked Stick) on Dye originals.

McIlroy went off the back side, and made the turn in 5-under 31. He birdied two of his first three holes, and saved par with a nifty up-and-down lob shot. On No. 14, McIlroy put his approach within two feet of the hole, dropping his iron shot right on top of the stick and spinning it close for the tap-in birdie. It looked like he might miss a birdie chance on the par-5 16th when he put his drive in the rough and had to lay-up. But he put his third shot shot left of the pin to give himself a shot at a four. He sank the putt from the edge of the green to move to 4-under, with the two tough finishing holes at TPC Sawgrass still ahead of him. On the island green at No. 17, he struck his tee shot to inside six feet and cleaned up that putt for one more birdie on his opening nine.

Rory will have multiple chances to add to his 5-under number on the front side -- the same stretch where Stallings canned five birdies in a row. While he's in excellent shape, he'll need to add several more in order to chase down Roberto Castro, the leader at 9-under through his first 15 holes. Castro, who turned pro in 2007, has never won on the PGA Tour but he's been unconscious at their marquee event on Thursday and is chasing the tournament course record (63) held by Greg Norman and Fred Couples. Here's a snapshot of the leaders and some notables who are chasing Castro:

Score Player Thru
-9 Roberto Castro 15
-6 Casey Wittenberg 15
-5 Rory McIlroy 10
-5 Steve Stricker 10
-4 Jason Day 16
-4 Hunter Mahan 13
-4 Keegan Bradley 12
-2 Jim Furyk 13
-2 Graeme McDowell 12
-2 Adam Scott 11
E Dustin Johnson 12
2 Ernie Els 12
2 Rickie Fowler 13

More from SB Nation:

Who will Mayweather fight next?

Mayweather vs. Guerrero: Money rings up another win

Orb wins the Kentucky Derby | Video: Orb storms down the stretch

Celtics head off into great unknown

2014 NFL mock draft: Who gets Clowney?

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.