Adam Scott opens with 77

Updated: May 9, 2014, 11:44 AM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Adam Scott could have stayed in the Bahamas, watched the Players Championship from his couch, and moved to No. 1 in the world this week for the first time in his career.

Perhaps he wishes he had chosen that option.

Scott, of course, preferred to put forth his best effort and win the Players Championship for the second time, but he'll be hard-pressed to make the 36-hole cut after finding water at the 17th and 18th holes Thursday.

The back-to-back double-bogeys turned an otherwise shaky round into a 77. He was tied for 133rd in the 144-player field after play Thursday. A top-16 finish here would have put him in position to move ahead of Tiger Woods into the No. 1 position.

[+] EnlargeAdam Scott
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsAdam Scott had No. 1 in his sights entering the Players Championship, but after a rough Thursday he'll have to work just to make the cut.

"Not the finish I needed,'' Scott said. "To hit two in the water at the end is a sin around here, but it happens, so I've just got to go out and have a good round in the morning.

"I played all right. I didn't putt very well and compounded that with a couple poor shots on the last couple holes. At a course like this, it can get away from you that quick.''

The three other players who have a chance to move to No. 1 are still in position.

Third-ranked Henrik Stenson needs to finish no worse than a two-way tie for sixth. He shot 71 and is tied for 47th, eight shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.

Fourth-ranked Bubba Watson, playing in his first tournament since winning the Masters last month, needs a solo second finish to have a chance. He shot 69, including an eagle at the par-5 16th, and is tied for 18th, six shots back.

"It's good. This is a golf course that doesn't like me very much,'' said Watson, whose best finish in six previous appearances here was a tie for 37th. "And so for me to shoot under par, shoot in the 60s, is a good start.''

Fifth-ranked Matt Kuchar, who won the Players two years ago, needs a victory for a shot at No. 1. He double-bogeyed the 18th hole to shoot 71.

This is the first time that Watson and Kuchar have had a chance to go to No. 1. Stenson has been in position before, starting at the Masters.

But this presented the best opportunity for Scott.

He could have gone to No. 1 with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He held a seven-stroke, 36-hole lead and a three-shot advantage with 18 holes to play when he shot 76 to lose by two.

Asked if he's been thinking about the No. 1 ranking, Scott said: "Maybe, I don't know. It's not been my focus. Like I said, I really believe it's just part of the process. I didn't tee off today thinking about No. 1 because there's 72 holes before that could happen.''

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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