Day trailed by three shots after three bogeys in his final four holes, with Phil Mickelson also two-under.
"It kind of felt weird because I haven't really been in the position recently, actually going out there and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard and stuff like that", Day, who has just one top-10 finish this season, said, via golfchannel.com.
Among those at 68 was Jon Rahm, another first-timer at this lucrative event who had one of four bogey-free rounds on the steamy day in north Florida.
"Just had two holes get away from me", said Fowler, who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
- William McGirt made a pair of eagles on the back nine to atone for mistakes that were inevitable for just about everyone Thursday in The Players Championship. "You know, I hit two flawless shots and I make a 5 on No. 1, then hit two good shots on 2, and horseshoed a four- footer".
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South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari of Italy head a list of 11 players who shot 69 and are two strokes off the lead. But he hasn't made the cut since, and won't stick around this week after a second-round 75 left him at 4 over and two shots off the cut line. Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Davis Love III (2003, 1992), Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Fred Couples (1984, 1996) and Jack Nicklaus (1974, 1976 and 1978) are golfers with multiple wins at The Players Championship.
Garcia's round was different. A double bogey on the par-4 6th left the 2015 Players victor three-over par during a three-hole stretch, but he did close with a final-hole birdie.
Last year's Masters champion Danny Willett shot a 79.
"The feeling was great", Garcia said. He could accept this 71 just because of all that went wrong - the wedge that hit the pin on No. 1, birdie putts that spun around the holes at Nos.
Johnson horse-shoed his birdie putt on the next hole, and did it again on the short par-4 12th.
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Garcia celebrates his hole in one.
"It could have been really good today, but ended up just being OK", Johnson said. Told that no one had made eagle on both par 5s on the back nine in the opening round, McGirt didn't have an answer.
"It's fantastic what a little bit of confidence will do", McGirt said. "These greens get pretty crusty and, historically, whenever firm Bermuda greens are crusty to where it's tough to set the putter down, I just struggle with my alignment and it just throws me off".
He made it sound simple, even though the Players Stadium Course can be anything but that.
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