Players Championship: Martin Kaymer leads after impressive first round

Martin Kaymer leads The Players Championship with a nine-under 63 to remain ahead of English duo Lee Westwood and Justin Rose who are four shots back in a nine-way share of third place.

American Russell Henley is currently second on seven-under par, while Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is nicely placed on three under and a shot ahead of compatriot Rory McIlroy.

Kaymer has looked in fine shape and has thus far carded a seven-under front nine – equalling the course record held at Sawgrass.

The German started on the 10th where he picked up birdies on 11 and 15 before coming through his last nine holes in 29 shots – including birdies on the final four. The 29-year-old can now boast matching the scores of Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994) and Roberto Castro (2003).

If Kaymer wins at Sawgrass, he will become only the fourth European to take the title since in began 1974 and bring to a close more than two years of waiting for a tournament victory after winning the 2011 WGC Champions tournament in Shanghai.

Kaymer, ranked 61st in the world rankings, said: "I played a lot better the last four or five weeks.

"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 over the last few weeks and it worked out nicely today."

Defending champion Tiger Woods is not playing as he continues to recover from surgery on a trapped nerve in his back. The American, who has already won 14 majors in his career to date, could find himself no longer ranked as world number one as there are four players on the field who could overhaul him in his absence.

Australia’s Adam Scott, currently world number two, has a lot of work to do if he is to take top spot, although right now he’s well adrift of a needed top-16 finish at five over.

Bubba Watson won his second US Masters last month and finds himself in a good position at three under, while fellow American Matt Kuchar and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson are both in contention at one under.