By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A day after tying the course record, Robert Castro went the other direction.
Castro carded a 6-over 78 on Friday at TPC Sawgrass -- a 15-shot swing from his opening round as he went from a three-shot lead to trailing by eight heading into the weekend.
"If it was easy, everybody would do it," Castro said. "I wouldn't have been embarrassed or felt bad or anything if I would have shot two 76s this week. It's a hard golf course.
"I'm 3‑under par, and beating 110 of the best players in the world through 36 holes. So I just kept telling myself, it's not easy. It's not easy. It's not easy."
The day started easy enough for Castro, who birdied the par-5 second after reaching the green in two and two-putting from 25 feet.
Things started to go south beginning on the fourth, however, where he missed the green on his approach, then nearly chipped off the green and into the water.
Castro went on to bogey the hole and thee of his next four.
On the par-5 11th, Castro's troubles continued when he found the water on his second shot on the 550-yard hole. He made bogey.
Things went from bad to worse on No. 12, where Castro was forced to take a drop after an errant tee shot to the right. He laid up short of the green on his next shot, then missed an 8-foot bogey putt and made double.
On the upside, Castro parred each of his last six holes and will play the weekend in his first PLAYERS Championship.
"Kind of a loose short game on the front, and then I kind of settled down," he said. "It was nice to finish with six really solid holes.
"Obviously THE PLAYERS Championship is huge all over the world, so it's exciting. It's a good place to be. I've played plenty of Friday rounds, three or four outside the cut, and that's no fun, you know. Today was fun."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Castro opened with a course record-tying 63 to take a three-shot lead on Thursday. Whether he still has that lead by the time he tees off Friday afternoon, who knows. Conditions appear to be good for scoring again and already a few players -- Tiger Woods among them -- have started to make a move. Here's a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Roberto Castro (12:46 p.m. ET): A big reason Castro was able to go so low in the opening round was because he hit close -- six of his approach shots were inside 5 feet. That will be a tall order come the afternoon when the wind is expected to increase along with the temperature, making for a firm, fast golf course.
Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler (1:18 p.m. ET): After failing to break 70 in 16 of his last 17 rounds, which included a pair of missed cuts and two other finishes near the bottom of the leaderboard, Mahan was "stress free" with a 67 Thursday. Given his accuracy, he should fare well here (two years ago, he finished sixth). Fowler, on the other hand, struggled to a 73 and will have some ground to make up to make the cut.
Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell (1:28 p.m. ET): Both were 2 under on Thursday, and McDowell comes into this week having recently won at another Pete Dye course (Harbour Town).
Zach Johnson (1:49 p.m. ET): Perhaps lost in all the headlines Thursday was Johnson, who was superb with seven birdies and just one bogey. Johnson has played progressively better here the last three years, finishing 32nd, 22nd, 12th and second.
Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott (1:49 p.m. ET): McIlroy finally broke par here with a sublime 66 in the opening round and he finally appears to be comfortable around this place. His last two wins have also come on Pete Dye courses. Stricker was nearly as good with a 67 and between the three the group made just two bogeys.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods broke 70 for the first time ever in the opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Rory McIlroy had his lowest career round at TPC Sawgrass.
But it in the end it was Roberto Castro atop the leaderboard after a course record-tying 9-under 63 that leaves him three shots clear of the field after Thursday's opening round of the PGA TOUR's flagship event.
McIlroy and Zach Johnson are tied for second after each shot 66, while Woods is one of six players another stroke back after a day in which 67 players broke par.
Castro was better than all of them.
Playing in his first PLAYERS Championship, he made nine birdies and no bogeys.
Teeing off on the back nine, Castro went out in 13, making birdie on Nos. 16, 17 and 18, before an eagle on the par-5 second and two more birdies on Nos. 4 and 6.
Castro's ball-striking was phenomenal as he hit a half-dozen approach shots to inside 5 feet.
He had a chance to add one more birdie on the par-5 ninth but his putt to break the course record slid by the hole.
Woods, meanwhile, looked to be headed toward his first ever bogey-free round here until his approach shot on the final hole bounded off the back of the green. He failed to get up and down to save par.
Still, it was his best round at TPC Sawgrass since the final round of 2007 and came within one of matching his career low here.
Masters winner Adam Scott shot 69, while defending champion Matt Kuchar carded a 71.
Brandt Snedeker also shot 71, while Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel were all at even par.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- En route to tying the course record of 63 on Thursday at THE PLAYERS Championship, Roberto Castro birdied the 16th, 17th and 18th holes -- otherwise known as "The Gauntlet" at the Stadium Course.
The birdie streak came as Castro finished his opening nine holes after starting his first round on the 10 hole. He credited the birdie stretch as "kickstarting" his round. Castro was 2 under on his first six holes before stepping on the tee at the par-5 16th.
According to PGA TOUR stats guru Luis Rivera, this is the 75th time in tournament history a player has birdied all three holes in The Gauntlet in a single round since TPC Sawgrass began hosting THE PLAYERS in 1982.
Three players achieved the feat last year -- Martin Kaymer (second round), Spencer Levin (third round) and Pat Perez (first round). It was Kaymer's second time to do it; he also birdied The Gauntlet in the first round in 2009.
Five players did it in 2011 but only one in 2010.
History, unfortunately, is not in Castro's favor for the rest of this week. Of the 74 previous times that it has been done, none of those players went on to win the tournament that year.
Mark McCumber has done it once in 1989 (first round) and again in 1990 (final round), but his PLAYERS win came in 1988.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Not only is Roberto Castro leading THE PLAYERS Championship in his first start, he put his name in the history book when he tied the Stadium Course record with a 63 in Thursday's first round.
Fred Couples and Greg Norman also shot 63s at TPC Sawgrass, in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Castro had a 13-footer on the ninth hole, his final one of the day, to set the record -- and ended up having to make a 4-footer to tie it.
"It was a fun day," Castro said in understatement.
Castro said he wasn't aware he was challenging the course record but he was glad to see that final putt drop.
"It's just nice to see the results sometimes," he said. "(It's) nice to have 18 holes that I showed what I've been working on."
Jason Bohn, who played with Castro and shot 68, was impressed. "He hit it a foot every hole, it felt like," Bohn said.
PGA TOUR veteran Joe Ogilvie was quick to take to Twitter: @cicioCASTRO respect.
Castro, who said he had "no expectations" for his first competitive round at TPC Sawgrass, is three shots ahead of his nearest competitor, Rory McIlroy, who has completed 13 holes. McIlroy has never broken par -- or made the cut -- in three previous PLAYERS Championships.
Castro started on the back nine and made the turn in 31. He birdied every hole in the challenging finishing stretch called "The Gauntlet," tapping in at No. 17 from 19 inches and the 18th from 23 inches, while two-putting the par-5 16th from 65 feet.
Castro is the 75th player to birdie all three of those holes in the same round since the tournament moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982 -- and the first since Spencer Levin accomplished the feat in the third round of last year's PLAYERS. He said the stretch "kick-started" his round.
Castro also eagled the second hole with a 4-footer after a precise 3-iron from 225 yards to take sole possession of the lead. Birdies from 21 inches at No. 4 and 18 inches at No. 6 followed.
"I hit it close a lot," Castro acknowledged.
The former Georgia Tech standout was hitting on all cylinders -- finding all but one fairway and 15 of 18 greens in regulation while using just 26 putts. He played a practice round with another Yellow Jacket, defending champ Matt Kuchar, on Wednesday.
"I learned a little bit what he looks for on this golf course," Castro said.
Roberto Castro makes a tap-in birdie at the 17th hole on Thursday.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A 4-footer for eagle at the second hole, his 11th of the day, has give Roberto Castro sole possession of the lead Thursday morning in his first PLAYERS Championship.
Castro shot a 31 on the back nine that included birdies on the final three holes -- a stretch that has been nicknamed "The Gauntlet." He two-putted for birdie from 65 feet at the par-5 16th, then tapped in for another from 19 inches at No.17 and from 23 inches at No. 18.
Casey Wittenberg, last year's Web.com Tour player of the year, is along in second at 6 under. He shot 33 on the front and has birdied three of his first four holes on the front nine.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who has never broken par at TPC Sawgrass, is tied for third at 5 under with his playing partner, Steve Stricker. Click here to "Follow this group" -- PGATOUR.COM is streaming every hole of their round.
Jason Kokrak and Scott Stallings, who started the day with five straight birdies, are 4 under and there are 10 players another stroke behind, including Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and former PLAYERS champ Henrik Stenson.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Is TPC Scottsdale ripe for another run at a 59 on Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open?
Bo Van Pelt got things rolling when he shot the magic number in the pro-am, then Phil Mickelson thrilled the crowd on Thursday when he had chances on the final two holes to post the sixth 59 in PGA TOUR history.
Watching to see if history is made for a third straight day is probably too much to ask. But Keegan Bradley had visions dancing in our heads when he played his first seven holes in 5 under with an eagle and three birdies.
Bradley, who started on the back nine, ended up making the turn in 31. He's moved to 9 under and is tied with Robert Garrigus, two strokes off the current lead held by Mickelson, who tees off at 2:16 p.m. ET.
Robero Castro, who is also making a move on the back, is one stroke behind Mickelson after playing his first seven holes in 4 under. Jeff Maggert, Angel Cabrera Ryan Moore and John Rollins are all on the course at 8 under, as well.
TPC Scottsdale played to an average of 69.015 -- nearly two strokes under par in the first round.
Davis Love III withdrew prior to his second round with a nagging neck injury. He shot a first-round 72.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley is bathed in sunshine Sunday morning as the leaders of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation get set for the final round on the Palmer Private Course.
Scott Stallings owns a five-stroke advantage over Roberto Castro, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Charley Hoffman. Stallings, who did not make a bogey in his first 54 holes, is looking for his third PGA TOUR win in 58 starts.
Four of the five players tied for second are trying to end lengthy victory droughts while Castro is seeking his first win. Howell's last victory came in 2007, Cink and Rollins last won in 2009 and Hoffman is seeking his first since the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs.
The deficit is admittedly daunting. But over the first three rounds, the Palmer Course averaged nearly two-and-a-half strokes under par and the course gave up a 59 to David Duval when he won the tournament in 1999. Stallings and Cink both shot 66s the first time they played the Palmer this week while Howell and Castro had 67s and Rollins shot 70.
Cink, who lives in Atlanta, used today's NFL playoff game between the Falcons and San Francisco 49ers to size up Sunday's competition.
"The Falcons are about a four-and-a-half point underdog, and does that translate into a five-shot deficit?" he said. "I'm probably a 14-point underdog tomorrow with a five-shot deficit. So I think I have a bigger challenge than they do.
"They have Matt Ryan. I don't have another person to be my quarterback tomorrow. I have to be my own quarterback and receiver."
Should the 27-year-old Stallings go on to win, he would become the third player in his 20s to win in the first three TOUR events of 2013. The last time that happened was in 1977 (Jerry Pate/Phoenix Open, Bruce Lietzke/Tucson Open and Tom Watson/Bing Crosby National Pro-Am). Tom Watson also won the fourth week on TOUR in 1977 at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational.
Stallings would also become the sixth player under the age of 30 with three of more TOUR wins, joining Dustin Johnson (7), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3) and Keegan Bradley (3). He'd also get a second straight trip to the Masters.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro reeled off three straight birdies on the front nine at La Quinta Saturday and has opened a two-stroke advantage in the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Scott Stallings, who has made a birdie and an eagle in his first six holes on the Nicklaus Course, is alone in second at 16 under. Darron Stiles, Ricky Barnes and Kevin Stadler, whose father Craig won this tournament in 1980, are another stroke behind.
Stewart Cink, who has gone back to a more fundamental approach with his swing after a lackluster 2012 campaign, heads a group of seven players tied at 14 under. Also in that logjam are James Hahn, who held a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman, Greg Chalmers, rookie David Lingmerth and Jason Kokrak.
With the cut looming Saturday afternoon, there are currently 78 players at 8 under or better. The number does not include four-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who has birdied two of his first three holes at the Palmer Course and is 7 under for the tournament.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro had a solid, if not spectacular rookie season in 2012.
He advanced to the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs and earned more than $755,000, which is hardly chump change. Along the way, the Georgia Tech grad kept his nose down and his eyes open, and the lessons he learned could pay dividends this week at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Castro opened with a career-low 63 that gave him a share of the first-round lead. He followed that up with a 67 at the Palmer Private course on a sun-drenched Friday to stay on top of the leaderboard, tied with PGA TOUR rookie James Hahn, one stroke ahead of the pack, despite a pair of bogeys in his last three holes.
"I played well all day," Castro said. "Some nice up-and-downs on the par fives for birdies, a couple slipped away there at the end, but yesterday I made a 50-footer on the last on a good putt. Today I felt like I hit a good putt and three-putted. So that's stuff over 72 holes that's going to even out."
Castro made the cut in six of his first seven starts a year ago, including a tie for 42nd here in the desert. The opportunity to play four rounds with regularity so early in his career didn't just help him get comfortable on the courses, Castro also took the opportunity to watch how his veteran playing partners handled themselves.
"When you play with guys when they're not leading and see what their habits are, you kind of see how that carries over when they are in contention, so I definitely learned that," Castro said. "And then the game plan this year, just try to have the same attitude I had last year, which was very grateful to be out here and keep a good perspective."
So which players impressed Castro the most? Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson -- players who have a similar studied approach to the game. Interestingly, Johnson sits two strokes behind Castro through 36 holes this week.
"I played with Stricker in Houston on Sunday and we were in 35th place to start the day," Castro recalled. "And he made a couple early bogeys and he made a couple late birdies and he was in 35th place probably on the 18th tee. And he was just grinding on that tee shot.
"And for a guy who finishes like third every week it was a meaningless week for him basically. But you could just see that he does the same thing every time. ... So I think about that all the time."
Not that anything he saw was particularly eye-opening. "It was just reinforcing that you are kind of on the right path, this is what these guys do, and they win tournaments," Castro said. "So keep on keeping on."
The former Tech All-American, who had two uncles and two younger brothers who played college golf, has also benefitted from picking the brain of his aunt, Jenny Lidback, who played the LPGA TOUR for 15 years. He used to spend spring break at her home in Scottsdale and they played together as often as their schedules permitted.
"Really for all through junior golf and a lot of college golf, we would talk on the phone a good bit," Castro said. "And she really, I think you heard Keegan say that about his aunt too, trying to win a tournament's the same no matter what TOUR you're on. And college golf especially, great experiences there. So she's had a big role in my golf."