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.