PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Hello, world.
“Tiger (didn’t) play till this afternoon,” said Roberto Castro. “So I'm sure some people were looking for something interesting to watch.”
Castro gave it to them.
Playing in his first PLAYERS Championship, the 27-year-old tied the course record with a 9-under 63 Thursday morning at TPC Sawgrass.
The former Georgia Tech standout puts his name in the record book alongside Fred Couples and Greg Norman, who shot the same score in 1992 and 1994, respectively. He also became the 75th player in the history of the tournament since it moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982 to post birdies on the difficult 16th, 17th and 18th holes in the same round.
Now he’ll try to do something that no one has done since Craig Perks in 2002: Win in his first appearance here.
“It was a clinic,” said Jason Bohn, who played alongside Castro. “It was beautiful. I’ve never seen a 63 shot like that. You see guys chip-in or hole a bunker shot; he shot 63 and it could’ve been two or three shots lower. That was the highest score he could have shot.”
That’s hardly hyperbole, either.
Castro hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in calm early conditions at TPC Sawgrass. Six of his approach shots landed inside 5 feet, and he took just 26 putts, including 10 one-putts.
“His iron play was incredible,” said Jimmy Walker, the other member of the group. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve shot low rounds before, but nothing like there. He was on.”
Castro began his day on the back nine, making the turn in 31 but not before tapping in from 19 inches on the island par-3 17th and 23 inches on the par-4 18th. The other birdie on “The Gauntlet” came when he two-putted from 65 feet on No. 16.
He didn’t stop there.
On the par-5 second, Castro made eagle, rolling in a 4-footer to take sole possession of the lead for the first time.
“That was when I think I wasn't paying that close of attention, but walking off 10 I was 5 under, and I had played a couple low rounds before where I tried to birdie every other hole,” Castro said. “Not that you start that way, but try to stay aggressive and keep that pace. When I eagled, I was like ‘Oh, now I'm 7 through 11,’ so that's keeping ahead of that 50 percent mark.
“But this is a different golf course. After I thought that on 2, I didn't really think about it again.”
But he kept it going, adding two more birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 -- both from inside 2 feet -- before running his 13-foot birdie attempt on the par-5 ninth to break the course record past the hole.
Asked if he’d ever had a round like he did Thursday, Castro said, “Maybe mini tour rounds where you're hitting wedge on every hole, but not quite Stadium Course. It was definitely an interesting round.”
It also put him three shots clear of his closest competitors: Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson.
“That was pretty amazing around this place,” Bohn said.
Considering Castro made just two putts longer than 5 feet all day, it could have been even more amazing.
“He makes a couple of 15 footers…,” Bohn said. “That could’ve been two or three shots lower.”
Added Walker: “It was one of those days where he just kept riding it.”
Castro said he could see, at least a little bit, a round like this coming because he’d hit the ball well the last few weeks. He might’ve been the only one.
In 14 starts this season, Castro has missed the cut in half of them, including in three of his last five. His last two starts certainly didn’t stand out, either, with a tie for 47th in New Orleans and a tie for 65th at Quail Hollow and just one round in the 60s in his last 15.
But he also wasn’t the only player to take advantage of a tame TPC Sawgrass, where half the morning wave was below par and 18 players from that group at least 3 under.
Still, Castro had to feel a bit like his favorite band, The Beatles, emerging from relative obscurity to the biggest spotlight he’s ever seen: From the eGolf Tour, where he won five times, and the Hooters Tour, to the PGA TOUR, where he’s had just one top 10 in his 42 career starts over the last two-plus seasons.
John Lennon -- who Castro says would round out his dream foursome along with Bobby Jones and Woods -- once said, “You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are.”
No matter what happens the rest of the week, what Castro is, at least for now, is part of history.