Kaymer Red-Hot in Players Championship

Martin Kaymer came out firing on all cylinders in the opening round of the Players Championship. Professional golf's so-called "fifth major" began Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Starting play on the 10th tee, the 29-year-old German began slowly with two birdies on his front nine. But on the back the 2010 PGA champion posted seven birdies for 7-under 29 and a 9-under 63.

Kaymer's 29 broke the all-time record for a low score on either nine at Sawgrass, while his 18-hole total tied the tournament record, matching 63s by Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994) and Roberto Castro (2013). Kaymer is seeking his first victory since the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2011.

"I hit a lot of fairways . . . and took advantage of my chances. I'm off to a good start," Kaymer said during a TV interview.

Though entering the tournament ranked 61st in the world, Kaymer has experienced an improvement in his play recently. "I played a lot better the last four or five weeks," the former No. 1 told reporters. "The ball-striking has been a lot better the last two or three months.

"At the beginning, I couldn't make that many putts so I worked more on that the last few weeks and it worked out nicely today."

Despite a double-bogey on the par-4 sixth hole, American Russell Henley also got off to a rousing start, recording nine birdies for a 65.

"I knew I was playing well and felt really comfortable on the greens," Henley told PGATour.com. "As long as I keep feeling comfortable with the putter, I think I can putt well on these greens. Playing some of the holes a little less aggressive has helped me to stay in there and make some pars."

Three behind Kaymer is South Korea's Sang-Moon Bae, who had five birdies, an eagle on the par-5 second and a bogey for his 66.

Two Englishmen - Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and four Americans - Brian Stuard, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth and Scott Stallings - all opened with 67s and are tied for fourth.

"I felt comfortable all day," said the 20-year-old Spieth, the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year now ranked seventh in the world. "Felt comfortable from really the first hole."

Tied for 12th following 68s are South Africa's Ernie Els, Dutchman Joost Luiten and Americans Scott Brown, Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez, Bill Haas and Justin Leonard.

The shot of the day was made by Leonard, whose hole-out eagle on the par-4 first so severely damaged the cup that a new hole had to be cut next to the original pin location. Leonard won the Players in 1998.

Of the top-50 players in the world, 46 are competing this week in the Players. Some of those vying to supplant defending champion Tiger Woods - still recovering from back surgery - as the top-ranked player didn't take advantage of good scoring conditions.

No. 2 Adam Scott had a rough day. The Aussie's three birdies couldn't offset two bogeys and three doubles en route to a 77. No. 3 Henrik Stenson had a 71, No. 4 Bubba Watson a 69, No. 5 Matt Kuchar a 71 and No. 9 Phil Mickelson a 75.

Mickelson, a five-time major winner, was unhappy that he wasn't able to go lower Thursday. "It's soft," Lefty said of the course. "There's a lot of birdies out there. Yeah, it's a little disappointing and frustrating."

No. 6 Jason Day is not playing this week due to a thumb injury.

Other scores included a 70 by two-time major winner Rory McIlroy. J.B. Holmes, who won his first tournament in six years at last week's Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, carded a 76.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.