Kaymer off to a record-tying start at Players

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Martin Kaymer used to worry about shots like this.

He stood on the tee at the par-5 second hole at the TPC Sawgrass, the wind slightly into him and to the right, the fairway bending slightly to the left. The tee shot requires a draw. Kaymer’s specialty is a fade.

“I just told myself, ‘You’ve done it many times before in Augusta.’ You need to draw certain shots,” Kaymer said. “That’s being brave. If you hit a bad shot? OK, it happens. But at least you tried the shot. And I pulled it off, and I had a good eagle chance. Through those shots you gain confidence.”

That’s about as much thought as he poured into a record round Thursday in The Players Championship.

The German in Kaymer strives for perfection. The golfer in Kaymer plays by feel. There was a clash between the ears as he tried to develop his game to hit a variety of shots, and the former PGA champion believes he is reaching the point where he can see the shot and hit the shot without worries.

It took him to a 9-under 63, with birdies on the last four holes, to build a two-shot lead in the opening round.

That tied the course record on the Stadium Course held by three other players - Roberto Castro last year, Greg Norman in 1994 and Fred Couples in 1992. And that final birdie, an up-and-down from the back bunker on the par-5 ninth, made him the first player to shoot 29 on either of the nines.

Russell Henley had a 65 in the morning, while Bae Sang-moon had a 66 in the afternoon. The long list of players at 67 - all in the morning - included Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.

Kaymer took advantage of a perfect day for scoring - warm weather, hardly any wind and soft greens.

There were 28 rounds in the 60s, which made the score by Adam Scott look even worse. With another chance - his best one yet - to get to No. 1 in the world for the first time, Scott finished with a pair of double bogeys from shots in the water and signed for a 77. It was his highest opening round at The Players since his first trip in 2002.

Phil Mickelson opened with a 75 and will need a low score Friday just to make the cut.

Kaymer wasn’t willing to look too far ahead.

“Only a quarter of the tournament happened today,” he said.

He has not won since the HSBC Champions in Shanghai at the end of 2011. He hasn’t had a top-10 all year. But the 29-year-old German has felt his swing start to come together in recent weeks. His name has been featured on leaderboards more and more.

And he had a simple explanation.

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