Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson delivered plenty of entertainment at The Players Championship.
The lead belonged to just about everyone else.
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar were among six players who shared the lead at 6-under 66, the largest logjam ever at the TPC Sawgrass and the most players tied at the top in the tournament in 40 years.
Woods had the best score in his star group and didn’t even break par. He had to save bogey on the 18th for a 72. Mickelson wore a long-sleeved, button-down shirt and posted a 79, his highest score at Sawgrass since 2000. Rickie Fowler, rounding out the threesome, shot 74.
It wasn’t much better in the marquee morning group. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were a combined 3 over.
Johnson is using a new technique for his putting and he likes the results.
Frustrated over not seeing enough putts go in over the last three months, Johnson tried the “AimPoint” method that some players use to help them read the greens. He opened with six birdies on the back nine, only once had a putt over 3 feet for par and wound up with a 6-under 66 to share the early lead at The Players Championship.
Alex Noren and Webb Simpson also were at 66 among the early starters Thursday.
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.
So he had one of his coaches, Allen Terrell, teach the method to Austin Johnson, his brother and caddie. And then the world’s No. 1 player picked it up quickly, and they were on their way.
“I was just not making enough putts,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely helped. Because I’m a feel putter, anyway, and so the way you’re doing it really is you’re just feeling. So it definitely works. I was pretty good the first time I switched. I had done it a little bit, like messing around with it. I’m very pleased with the way I putted today.”
It involves a player holding up one or two fingers, depending on the length of the putt, to help determine.
“The only thing I don’t like is holding up fingers,” Johnson said. “I make AJ do that.”
The scoring was so easy that 43 of the 72 players who teed off in the morning broke par.
Defending champion Si Woo Kim had the lead until two late bogeys. 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.