PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- For four hours, Scott Hoch sat on the couch and watched shot after shot land in the murky lagoon surrounding the famed 17th hole.
Then, his turn came, and Hoch found the hole to be easier than it looked on TV.
He hit his tee shot within 4 feet and made birdie, helping him finish at 5 under Thursday and putting him among the leaders after 12 holes of the rain-shortened first round at The Players Championship.
"I didn't think about it too much," Hoch said of his mindset when he walked to the 17th tee. "I had about four hours to think about it beforehand. I watched the carnage on TV. I got out there and said, 'This does not look too hard."'
Like Hoch, Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco played after a windy rainstorm swept through the TPC at Sawgrass. Play was delayed for 2 1/2 hours and softened the course for the afternoon. They also were at 5 under, playing their second nine when darkness halted the first round with half the 148 players still on the course.
Tiger Woods played in the afternoon too, but didn't take as much advantage of the forgiving conditions. Seeking to become the first back-to-back winner of the richest tournament on tour, Woods stood at 1 under with four holes left.
"It was just a day where you want to keep hanging in there," Woods said. "The conditions weren't exactly easy, but they became easier toward the end."
Using yet another version of his funky "claw" putting style -- this time with a putter that goes up to his belly button -- Mark Calcavecchia was one of seven players who finished their opening round at 3-under-par 69, the best 18-hole score of the day.
Colin Montgomerie was a stroke behind, enjoying a successful and turmoil-free round. The Scot threatened not to play again in America after being heckled at the Match Play Championship last month, but changed his mind.
Is he glad he came so far?
"I like the 'so far' bit," Monty said. "Seventy is OK. That's very safe. I've always tended to compete around here."
So has Hoch, at least since 1996, after the PGA Tour drastically altered the setup of the course, growing the rough and making things more difficult. The goal was to prevent another winning score of 24 under -- what Greg Norman shot to win the tournament in 1994.
Hoch missed seven cuts in his first 14 appearances here and vowed not to come back. But commissioner Tim Finchem talked him into returning. Hoch finished second in 1996 and has added three more top-10 finishes since.
At 46, he's in contention to become the oldest player to win the tournament widely considered the fifth major.
"If people think course setups don't make a difference, check my record here at this tournament," Hoch said.
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