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Published: Mon, May 14, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Dustin Johnson Shoots 66, Joining a Crowd in the Players Championship Lead

Dustin Johnson Shoots 66, Joining a Crowd in the Players Championship Lead

"I don't think people would appreciate how tough that was unless they were down there".

Joining Johnson atop the leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, were fellow US Open victor Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay and in-form Swede Alex Noren. His Sawgrass first round of 66 was bogey free.

Johnson, whose No. 1 ranking is in jeopardy this week, made the putts he had been missing in Mexico and Riviera, at Augusta National and Hilton Head.

Scott, who was on hand for Johnson's practice round and opened with 69, admitted to a high level of intrigue in watching Johnson and caddie brother Austin employ the scientific method of green reading.

Johnson, who has been world No 1 for 64 weeks, is under siege by those ranked No 2 to No 5 inclusive and he answered the challenge as the 33-year old only knows best. "I've been using the Spider for the past year or so and this was kind of in between".

"My expectation is the same for every tournament, I want to play well and put myself in a position to have a chance to win on Sunday". So it definitely works.

"I liked my score in the first round, but I can hit it better, but I'm fine, good", said Kim. That might be a little bit different tomorrow afternoon. "The 12th is a fun little hole, a risk-reward hole, and normally if you make eagle you think you're going to have a crack at the green".

Woods had the best round with an even-par 72, but he was so frustrated with how he played much of the day, he fist-pumped a bogey on 18.

"But I would say as far as a mass group actually following your group the whole way around, that's up there as one of the biggest", he said. "I make AJ do that".

Hours later, bogeys on the 18th hole by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas - who were playing in the same group - dropped the cut number from 142 to 141, meaning Woods will have an early-morning tee time Saturday.

Kim Si Woo, who a year ago at 21 became the youngest victor in the championship's 44-year history, was a shot off the lead. He had to settle for a 67, still a strong start considering that no one has ever won back to back in the PGA Tour's premier event. Casey's withdrawal left 49 of the top 50 players in the field, meaning the 2016 U.S. Open is still the most recent tournament to feature the full top 50.

Garcia came up short and in the water at the famed 17th hole and barely made his double-bogey putt.

"I definitely want to stay there, but if someone passes me it's not going to change anything", Johnson said. "I was playing better than that". I feel like I played it the same way most of the times I played it, other than I fade the ball instead of draw it now. "When we did, we just tried to take advantage of our opportunity".

"My last 27 holes at Hilton Head, I was two-for-15 inside 10 feet for birdie", he said. He then hit his tee shot in the water at the seventh for another double, leading to a score of 71 and a total of 145. And it's more of let's just get it in the fairway, even if you have to lay way back, sometimes you have to hit it in the middle of the green.

With a 6-under-par 66, Johnson posted his lowest score in 31 passes around the Stadium Course.

McIlroy said he was impressed with how Johnson has maintained the No. 1 ranking.

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