The feature group of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler did not have the best luck as none of them managed to break par.
Johnson has been ranked No. 1 for 64 straight weeks, but there are four players - Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose - who conceivably could overtake him this week, and though he was asked about it on Thursday, he seemed indifferent.
So, where did that round come from?
"I think DJ plays incredible all the time", Bubba Watson said after playing with him. I think he's got to work a little harder.
"I felt like the way I was feeling today, I should have shot something in the 60s", Woods told Golf Channel.
India's Anirban Lahiri shot a solid 3-under 69 to be tied-27th The leaderboard was crowded with low scores as 14 others shot 4-under to be tied 13 and another dozen players, including, Lahiri, carded 3-under to be tied 27th.
"Every week Justin [Thomas is] pretty close, " Johnson said.
"I knew this was going to be an issue", he said.
"I definitely want to stay there, but if someone passes me it's not going to change anything, I'm still going to go back the next week and try to get it back".
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It involves a player holding up one or two fingers, depending on the length of the putt, to help determine. "I'm going to keep working hard".
"It was definitely a big deal to get there and it's a big deal to stay there".
Harmon said he believes Johnson is getting there again, because he likes being No. 1 and doesn't want to lose the ranking.
"I don't care what people are talking about, it doesn't bother me", Johnson said. They were a combined 3 over, and McIlroy had the best score of the group with a 71.
"If you're on your game, this course suits you", Kuchar said. I've just struggled on the greens here.
"The course is in immaculate shape, and it's going to firm up as the week goes on".
"I said it Sunday at Wells Fargo, I was anxious about energy this week", said Mickelson, who won the Players in 2007. "I think that once you're there, you have a lot of points to defend and there's a lot of that that goes into it. (His) talent is incredible, so every time you play with him you look at something and learn something".
He is 11 over in his last eight rounds at The Players.
Almost two dozen players shot in the 60s. He aggravated the injury on the driving range Wednesday when a golf cart drove in front of him, forcing Koepka to check his swing. Mitchell birdied his opening four holes, made seven birdies over his first 11 holes and was slowed only by a double bogey on the par-3 third.
"It was the first time my strength actually backfired, being strong enough to actually stop it".
Johnson does not have a strong record at TPC Sawgrass, with a 12th-place finish past year his only top-25 showing in nine previous starts. "When I went to the first tee, I still felt like I can win the golf tournament".