Roberto Castro equaled THE PLAYERS Stadium Course record on Thursday with a 9-under 63. Greg Norman also performed the feat during the first round, doing so in 1994 en route to a four-stroke win over Fuzzy Zoeller. The only other 63 in tournament history was recorded by Fred Couples in 1992 in the third round (finished T13).
Castro's 63 equals his low round on the PGA TOUR, carding an opening-round 9-under 63 at the 2013 Humana Challenge (finished T37) and a final-round 7-under 63 at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic (finished T7 for his only top-10 finish on TOUR).
Since 2003, Castro becomes the first player to post a round of 65 or lower at this course without making at least one putt over 10 feet. His longest putt made on Thursday was a 9'8" birdie putt on the par-5 16th hole. Overall, he hit six approach shots within five feet, including four within two feet (Nos. 4, 6, 17, 18).
Castro, a 2011 graduate of the Web.com Tour, became the 75th player to birdie Nos. 16, 17 and 18 in the same round at THE PLAYERS. The last to do so was Spencer Levin during the third round in 2012.
Should Castro's lead hold up, it would be the second time he has held the first-round lead/co-lead in 43 PGA TOUR starts (2013 Humana Challenge/finished T37).
Castro, currently No. 113 in the FedExCup standings, had made seven of 14 cuts this season, with a T16 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open his best finish.
Castro is making his first start at THE PLAYERS this week. Only three players have won the event in their first start (Jack Nicklaus/1974/inaugural event, Hal Sutton/1983, Craig Perks/2002).
Should his lead hold up, Georgia Tech alums have now led three out of the last four rounds at THE PLAYERS (Matt Kuchar/R2/R4/2012; Roberto Castro/R1/2013).
The first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win THE PLAYERS 12 times since the tournament began in 1974, most recently Sergio Garcia in 2008. There have been four wire-to-wire winners: Al Geiberger (1975), Greg Norman (1994), Steve Elkington (1997) and Hal Sutton (2000).
Of 31 winners since the event moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982, only 10 have carded a first-round score of 70 or higher and gone on to win, with the most recent being K.J. Choi in 2011 with a 70.
The first-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win five of 18 times this season, most recently Derek Ernst at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Rory McIlroy recorded an opening-round 6-under 66 in his fourth start at THE PLAYERS Championship. In three previous missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy's best round was an even-par 72 (R2/2010, R1/2012).
McIlroy has now opened with a round of 66 or better nine times in 62 PGA TOUR starts. In the eight previous events, he has gone on to win four times (2012 Honda Classic, 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship, 2012 BMW Championship, 2011 U.S. Open).
McIlroy is making his eighth appearance of 2013 and sits No. 31 in the FedExCup standings. A runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open is the best finish of his three top-10 finishes.
Adam Scott opened on Thursday with a 3-under 69. Scott is one of seven players with a victory at both THE PLAYERS (2004) and the Masters Tournament (2013). The others are Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Sandy Lyle, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Scott is seeking to become the sixth player to win THE PLAYERS more than once-Jack Nicklaus (3), Fred Couples (2), Davis Love III (2), Hal Sutton (2) and Steve Elkington (2).
Scott is currently No. 8 in the FedExCup standings, with top-10 finishes at the Masters (1st), World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship (T3) and the Northern Trust Open (T10).
Prior to Thursday's 69, Scott had played 38 rounds on the TPC Stadium Course, with his lowest round coming during the first round in 2004 (7-under 65 en route to a one-stroke win over Padraig Harrington).
In his 15 previous starts at THE PLAYERS, Tiger Woods has yet to record a round in the 60s during the first round.
Woods is making his 16th start at THE PLAYERS this week, an event he won in 2001 and posted additional top-10 finishes in 1999 (T10), 2000 (2) and 2009 (8).
Defending champion Matt Kuchar is making his ninth start at THE PLAYERS, with last year's victory his only top-10 finish at TPC Sawgrass. He posted additional top-20 finishes in 2010 (T13), 2009 (T14) and 2004 (T16).
No one has successfully defended a title at THE PLAYERS. Only six defending champs have finished in the top 10 the following year, with no one finishing higher than T5.
Eight defending champions have missed the cut the following year at THE PLAYERS: 1985 champion Calvin Peete (1986), Sandy Lyle (1988), Jodie Mudd (1991), Steve Elkington (1992), Nick Price (1994), Stephen Ames (2007), Henrik Stenson (2010) and K.J. Choi (2012). 2011 champion Tim Clark withdrew after a first round 74 in 2012.
Davis Love III
1992 and 2003 PLAYERS champion Davis Love III made his 28th consecutive start at THE PLAYERS on Thursday. Only Jay Haas has more starts at this event, with 29.
Love and Nick Price have the most rounds in the 60s at THE PLAYERS, with 22. Thursday's opening round marked his 90th round at the event. The tournament record for most rounds at THE PLAYERS is Tom Kite with 102.
Additional Player Notes
Zach Johnson posted a 6-under 66 for the third time in his last six rounds at THE PLAYERS Championship (R4/2011, R2/2012, R1/2013). His career-low in 31 rounds at the event came in his inaugural start with an opening-round 65 in 2005.
Steve Stricker opened with a 5-under 67, equaling his career-low round at THE PLAYERS Championship (R2/2011). In 49 career rounds at the event, he owns just five rounds in the 60s.
Scott Stallings birdied his first five holes (Nos. 1-5) en route to a 1-under 71. He is the first player to birdie the first five holes at THE PLAYERS since Paul Azinger during the first round in 1993. The last player to birdie five in a row at THE PLAYERS was Blake Adams during the first round in 2012 (Nos. 5-9).
Casey Wittenberg, the 2012 Web.com Tour Player of the Year, posted a 5-under 67 in his first-career start at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Derek Ernst is looking to join Tiger Woods (2001 Arnold Palmer Invitational), Tom Kite (1989 Arnold Palmer Invitational) and Raymond Floyd (1981 Doral-Eastern Open) as the only players to win the week immediately preceding their PLAYERS victory. Ernst, who won last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, shot a 2-over 74 in the first round.
Billy Horschel struggled to a 4-over 76 on Thursday, bringing his current TOUR-leading consecutive cuts made streak of 23 in jeopardy. He owns a current streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes (T2, T3, T9, 1) highlighted by his recent victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Ben Crane is making his ninth start at THE PLAYERS with his only missed cut coming in his first career start in 2003. He recorded all three of his top-10 finishes at THE PLAYERS in consecutive seasons (T6/2008, T5/2009, T4/2010). His opening-round 69 on Thursday is his fifth consecutive opening round in the 60s at THE PLAYERS.
International Flavor at THE PLAYERS
A total 48 players from 16 countries outside of the U.S. are represented in the field, compared to 14 players from outside the United States who teed it up in the 1982 PLAYERS when it was held at TPC Sawgrass for the first time.
International players have won seven of the last 11 PLAYERS Championships. A total of 12 international players have won THE PLAYERS in the 39-year history of the event.
Australians have won THE PLAYERS on four occasions (two-time winner Steve Elkington, Adam Scott, Greg Norman), the most of any country outside the U.S.
Masters champion Adam Scott leads a group of nine Aussies in the field this week, the most of any international country. England and South Africa each have seven players in the field, followed by Korea (5), Sweden (6), Argentina (2), Canada (2), Spain (2) and Northern Ireland (2). The other countries represented with one player each are Denmark, Fiji, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Zimbabwe.
Best finishes by a PGA TOUR rookie at THE PLAYERS: Fulton Allem (T3 in 1988), Camilo Villegas (T3 in 2006), Jeff Quinney (T6 in 2007) and Dave Rummells (T10 in 1996).
Paul Azinger (1987) is the only player to birdie the No. 17 in all four rounds of a single THE PLAYERS Championship.
No player has gone all four rounds without a bogey at THE PLAYERS Championship. Greg Norman came the closest in 1994 with a single bogey in the final round on No. 13.
Since moving to THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, 18 of the 31 winners played the week before with the other 13 (most recently Matt Kuchar in 2012, K.J. Choi in 2011 and Tim Clark in 2010) taking the week off prior to the event.
Bob Estes (illness) withdrew in the next-to-last pairing of the day, with first alternate Scott Langley getting into the field.