Players Championship: Rory McIlroy and Graeme Dowell nine behind after 72s

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy could only manage two birdies on Thursday
Players Championship first-round leaderboard
-9 J Day (Aus); -7 B Steele (US), S Lowry (Ire), J Rose (Eng), B Haas (US), C Tringale (US); -6 F Molinari (It), H Swafford (US), E Els (SA), B Koepka (US), D Berger (US), B Weekley (US)
Selected others: -4 M Kaymer (Ger), P Casey (Eng); -3 I Poulter (Eng); -2 D Willett (Eng); E R McIlroy (NI), R Fowler (NI), G McDowell (NI), S Garcia (NI), P Harrington (Ire) (Eng), J Spieth (US)

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are both nine shots off the pace after firing opening level-par rounds of 72 at the Players Championship in the US.

As world number one Jason Day led after a course-record equalling 63, McIlroy could only manage two birdies on a low-key opening day.

McDowell also carded two birdies in his 72 which was also matched by Dubliner Padraig Harrington.

Shane Lowry sharing second spot two behind Day after an opening 65.

Lowry was joined on 65 by England's Justin Rose and American trio Cameron Tringale, Bill Haas and Brendan Steele.

With 82 players under par at Sawgrass, McIlroy and McDowell will need an improved showing on Friday to survive into the weekend.

The Northern Irish duo were joined on 72 by Jordan Spieth, who was playing his first event since surrendering a back-nine lead at the Masters last month.

Masters winner Danny Willett opened with a two-under-par 70.

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