PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Brian Harman was a happy single on Thursday, getting a special first-round tee time following a bizarre chain of events involving the last-second withdrawal of D.A. Points.
Harman was first alternate, and informed tournament officials Thursday morning when he arrived that he was on site. He gave them a cellphone number where he could be reached, since groups in the first two rounds start on Nos. 1 and 10, which aren’t close to each other.
Points, who had the 8:39 a.m. time off No. 1, was on the tee with Carl Pettersson and Robert Garrigus, both of whom knew Points - who lost a playoff last week in Charlotte, N.C. - was having back issues. Points was announced by the starter, teed up his ball, then felt another spasm in his back, at which time he informed the starter he could not play.
“Very unusual situation. In my 31 years on the [PGA] Tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he’s supposed to play,’’ said Mark Russell, the tour’s vice president of rules and competition. “It happened very quickly. We didn’t have time to react but . . . we decided that Brian Harman had done everything that we had asked him to do.’’
Harman was given a new tee time five minutes before the start of the afternoon wave - 12:20 p.m. off No. 1 - and played as a single, shooting a 73. He had the option of playing again as a single on Friday morning in the first time off No. 10, but instead will take the place of Paul Casey - who withdrew with a shoulder injury after a front-nine 42 - in the 8:50 a.m. pairing off the 10th. He’s relieved that he was even able to compete.
“I can understand, this week, it’s a big purse, it’s a big tournament, guys are going to try up until the last second to see if they can play. I’m just glad that he didn’t play a shot and then go in,’’ said Harman, making his Players debut. “They knew where I was, it had nothing to do with location. I could have been standing on the putting green and it still wouldn’t have mattered. The relay of information just wasn’t fast enough.’’
It shouldn’t have come to that, Garrigus said.
“It got botched by everybody. D.A. didn’t do anything, the officials didn’t do anything, and Brian was sitting in the caddie area,’’ Garrigus said. “I think Brian should have been able to play, and he is, so that’s fine by me.’’
Tiger Woods extended a personal streak, but it was one he was hoping to break. Woods opened with 74, the 15th consecutive time he’s failed to break 70 in the first round of the Players Championship. It left him in jeopardy of ending another streak, one he’d like to extend.
“It wasn’t certainly the most positive start. Any kind of momentum that I would build, I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole,’’ Woods said. “My good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously my bad shots ended up in worse spots.’’
Even though Woods has never broken 70 in the first round here, the 74 is only topped by a pair of opening 75s (2005, 2007). He’s tied for 100th after 18 holes, in need of a good number in the second round to avoid missing consecutive cuts for the first time in his PGA Tour career.
Sung Kang had an unforgettable introduction to his first Players. Kang, a 24-year-old in his second season on tour, matched the highest score ever on No. 1 when he made a quadruple-bogey 8, taking six to get down from behind the green. Kang responded with an eagle on No. 2 (holing a 17-foot putt), then added birdies on the fourth (making his card read 8-3-3-3) and sixth to get back to an unlikely even par. He was still even after 16 holes, but doubled the 17th and bogeyed the 18th to shoot 75 . . . PGA champion Keegan Bradley birdied his final two holes (Nos. 8-9) to overcome three front-nine bogeys in a four-hole stretch. He shot 72. James Driscoll double bogeyed No. 18 (his ninth hole) and shot 73 . . . There were 18 balls hit into the water on the par-3 17th hole, including three by Angel Cabrera, who made a 9 and shot 78. Cabrera withdrew after his round, citing “personal reasons.’’ . . . In addition to Points and Casey, two other withdrawals: Simon Dyson (back injury) after a 76, and Hunter Haas, who completed three holes . . . Defending champion K.J. Choi opened with 75. The Players has never had a back-to-back champion . . . Ernie Els saw his streak of holes without a three-putt end at 194 when he needed three from the back of the green on No. 17. It had been the longest active streak on tour . . . Jerry Kelly shot 82, and had every number from 2 through 8 on his card at least once . . . Brent Henley, who caddies for Garrigus, won an iPad after hitting his shot on the 17th to 3 feet, 7 inches on Wednesday, taking the annual closest to the pin caddie contest.Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.