One tournament you are winning the green jacket, the very next you are making a hole-in-one on one of the game's most iconic par threes. For Sergio Garcia, the celebrations just will not stop.

All of the partying since breaking his curse at the Masters four weeks ago seemed to have taken its toll as the Spaniard yesterday went through the first six holes at the Players in four-over, including a four-putt on the fifth.

But with a three-under back nine, Garcia played himself back into the tournament and added another magic moment for his 2017 showreel in the process.

Garcia, 37, had birdied the 16th when arriving on the tee of the 17th, the infamous 123-yarder with the island green.


He had previously experienced his fair share of both ecstasy and agony on the hole; the former when winning a play-off against Paul Goydos there in 2008, the latter when hitting two into the water in defeat against Tiger Woods in 2013.

And in 2015, he complained of being heckled on the 17th in another play-off, this one won by Rickie Fowler.

Two years on, it was very much a case of joy and cheers. Garcia's ball took hops before dropping and there was Sergio, once more, with his arms raised in celebration.

Is this really the same figure who believed himself to be the enemy of the golfing gods? Granted, when Garcia signed for his 73 he was six behind the early American pacesetter Will McGirt, but the smile persists.

Rory McIlroy is on the same mark, but two double-bogeys in five holes ensured that his first competitive round as a married man was anything but comfortable.

He reached the turn in level par, but from there his day unravelled. McIlroy had his own four-putt on the 10th and hit the ball in the water on the 14th.

There were birdies on the 12th, 17th and 18th which limited the damage to one-over. McIlroy's challenge was put into starker perspective by the recovery of his playing partner, Dustin Johnson. The world No1 eagled the 16th to turn a mediocre display into an eye-catching 71.

Neither Lee Westwood nor Ian Poulter expected to be here a few weeks ago. Westwood thought he would miss out at No53 in the world, but, bizarrely, he rose the requisite three places despite not playing. The veteran made the most of it with a bogeyless 70.


Poulter was rather more profligate. A first-round 72 was far from disastrous but after eight holes of near perfect golf, his round promised so much.

There was a day when three bogeys in the last four holes would have sent Poulter into a rage. Older and wiser, he knows that patience is now key as he seeks to resurrect his career.

The younger Poulter would probably also have been apoplectic at the error of the PGA Tour HQ which had him and the world believing that he had lost his card three weeks ago and would not be in this field.

Playing on a medical exemption, Poulter thought he had just come up short in gaining enough points, but thanks to the diligence of Brian Gay, the US pro who was in the same boat, he was granted a lifeline.

The Tour admitted it had erred in his complex calculations and reinstated the pair's status.

Although Poulter expressed his delight at the turn of events, he did wonder how a billion-dollar corporation could ever make such a howler when livelihoods are at stake.

"It was a nice surprise, but obviously the question does come into your mind 'how can that happen?'," he said. "But the Tour apologised. I've been out here too long to be holding grudges."

Despite a satisfactory two-under 70, Jason Day was another berating three bogeys in his final four holes.

The Australian is aiming to be the first player ever to defend successfully his Players title and at five-under through 11 his candidature was beginning to look irresistible.

Like Poulter, Day believes his luck is about to change. "It's close. I'm excited about where the state of the game is." Telegraph Group Ltd