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Mark O'Meara is near the top at the Players Championship with a 66

The 54-year-old veteran is two shots behind Nick Watney, who missed the cut last week. Lucas Glover shoots a 65.

May 12, 2011|By Jeff Shain
  • Mark O'Meara hits a tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on Thursday.
Mark O'Meara hits a tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round… (Sam Greenwood / Getty Images )

Reporting from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — On the eve of the Players Championship, Tiger Woods went to dinner with Mark O'Meara and his wife — an infrequent occasion these days as O'Meara plays his golf on the Champions Tour.

"How's Mark hitting it?" Meredith O'Meara said.

Woods' reply: "Short."

Well, check out whose name could be found just beneath the top of Thursday's leaderboard: O'Meara, 54, whose sprightly six-under-par 66 left him two shots behind leader Nick Watney in a tie for third.

As for Woods? The 35-year-old was long gone — back home in Orlando after his injured knee left him unable to finish his round for the second consecutive year and looking very much the old man.

Watney carded nine birdies and an eagle on the way to a 64, flirting with the TPC Sawgrass tournament record before settling in one shot ahead of Lucas Glover. Watney's front-side 30 did match the Players' best nine-hole score.

"I felt very much in control," said Watney, who got in a couple extra days of practice at Sawgrass after missing the cut last week at Quail Hollow. "I wish I could have kept going, really."

As did O'Meara, whose 66 was one shot off his best round in 23 previous appearances at the Players. He hadn't teed it up at Sawgrass since 2003, but drew encouragement from a visit he made last month in which he shot 68.

"Yeah, I'm not 32 and strong, but I hit it far enough," he said. "If I make a good swing and trust it, I can still get it out there. I know I can still play."

jshain@orlandosentinel.com

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