Tommy Fleetwood gets off to a flier in disrupted first round of THE PLAYERS Championship

The Englishman maintained his excellent record at TPC Sawgrass before and after a delay for thunderstorms.

On a day of extensive interruptions, Tommy Fleetwood negotiated a safe passage round the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The popular Englishman carded a 6-under-par 66 to share the clubhouse lead with Tom Hoge late on an opening day that included a four hour 15 minute delay when the weather forecast threatened the safety of the field.

"I'm chuffed to be in on that score," he said. "I felt like I drove the ball well aside from a couple, and I chipped and putted great. That was the most I could have got out of the round. Days like that are very, very pleasing.

"I think there's things that I can do better. So I'll try to do that over the next few days. I'm not going to complain about the day or anything. I'll just move on and be happy with a 66."

Starting his day on the back nine he made three birdies before the turn and four after it, with just the one dropped shot at the sixth.

He looked set to make a second bogey at the seventh after an errant drive and a recovery shot from the tree that rattled through the green.

But his flop shot from lush grass settled six feet from the flag and he saved par; he rode the wave by holing from 25-feet at the eighth for a birdie.

It remains to be seen if he will end the round at the top of the leaderboard - the action will seep into Friday - but this was not his first fast start at the PGA Tour's HQ.

Back in 2019 he shared the 18 and 36 hole lead on his way to tied fifth, a year after he finished tied seventh.

"I would say it's very much a ball striker's golf course," he added of his affinity for the layout. "I think my strengths over the years have always been hitting it in play off the tee.

"Very consistent, hit a lot of greens with my irons and never really put myself in too much trouble. Patient attitude and mindset.

"I love this golf course. I really, really do. If you play well, you get rewarded, and if you play poorly, you're going to struggle to make a score. I think it's major-like in that sense.

"When I'm playing well, I'm obviously going to drive it well and put the ball in play a lot and then not make too many mistakes. So the years that I did play well, I obviously did that particularly well."

Of the further threat of delays he said: "It's almost a case of relax as much as you can and save your energy, but always kind of stay ready and in that mindset that you might be going out at any time."

When officials called a halt to play Kramer Hickok, Joaquin Niemann, Keith Mitchell and Anirban Lahiri shared third in the clubhouse after 5-under 67.

Among those who struggled were former champions Webb Simpson (75) and Adam Scott (78).

Mitchell on a tear

Keith Mitchell's previous experience of Sawgrass had been arduous: he's missed two cuts, finished T47th when he did make the weekend, and six of his nine laps reaped over-par scores.

Against that, the 30-year-old is enjoying the best form of his life as he chases a second PGA Tour win: he's on a run of 9-for-10, with six top 12 finishes.

He has also proved himself in testing conditions in Florida - that first win came at the windy PGA National in the 2019 Honda Classic.

Varner III hits the drink

Heading to the 17th hole Harold Varner III led the field by two strokes on 7-under and no-one had yet found water in their quest to land the island green at the par-3.

His tee shot found the putting surface, but it had plenty of back spin, landed on a slope and was sucked back into the lake.

After taking a drop his third shot was an almost exact replica, but had slightly less momentum and was caught up by the short grass around the putting surface.

When he failed to get down in two, his triple bogey-6 had ruined his hopes of the first round lead.

The island green had another victim and he added bogey at the 18th to limp home for a 3-under 69.

There was no feeling sorry for himself, however.

"It's a game, that's why we play it," he said. "No one is going to die out there. I've always said that. Just was in between clubs and didn't execute the shot, and that's what you get a lot out here. Either you get it done or you don't."

How did he feel over the third shot from the drop zone? More honesty.

"Well, I was shitting my pants when I got up there because the angle was just so bad," he admitted. "It was just a little funky and I was more scared that it might go in the water again. When it was coming down, I was like, not another one.

"But it doesn't kill me when I play bad or good. I love just the opportunity to play as well as I can. Standing there on the tee, I'm like, 'Give it to me, I want it every time.'"

READ MORE: PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan pulls no punches over Mickelson and rivals at THE PLAYERS

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