PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson delivered plenty of entertainment Thursday at The Players Championship.

The lead belonged to just about everyone else.

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar were among six players who shared the lead at 6-under 66 in ideal scoring conditions, creating the largest logjam ever at the TPC Sawgrass and the most players tied at the top at The Players in 40 years.

“If you’re on your game, this course suits you,” Kuchar said.

That’s been the story of the TPC Sawgrass over the years – a design that doesn’t favor one particular style of play. That notion was on overdrive in warm sunshine and moderate wind, conditions so ideal that 12 players were separated by one shot after the opening round, and 68 players in the 144-man field broke par.

Woods wasn’t among them. He shot 72 in his first time at The Players in three years. Neither was Mickelson, who had three double bogeys on the back nine and shot 79. Rickie Fowler rounded out the threesome and shot 74.

“Toward the back nine, (the fans) started getting a little sparse,” Woods said. “I think they might have tipped back a couple and got a little sleepy.”

Or maybe they were just bored. All the action was around them.

Kuchar, Chesson Hadley and Patrick Cantlay each got to 7 under until late bogeys. Johnson, Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shot 66 in the morning when there was only a mild breeze, still enough to make even the best look foolish.

Johnson played like he was determined to keep that No. 1 ranking, which he could lose if he finishes 12th or worse. And he putted like he was fed up with not seeing enough go in. He tried the “AimPoint” method some players use to help them read the greens. He liked the results.

Johnson started on No. 10 and went out in 31, and when he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole, he was on his way. Johnson only gave himself a few reasonable chances the rest of the way, though he was more than happy with his 66. It was his best score ever on the Stadium Course, and only his fourth time in the 60s.

Rookies and veterans alike were in the group at 67. The rookie was Keith Mitchell, who didn’t even know he was in the field until Paul Casey withdrew Wednesday. Mitchell birdied his opening four holes, made seven birdies over his first 11 and was slowed only by a double bogey on the par-3 third.

The veteran was Steve Stricker, 51, who still can’t decide whether to hang his hat in the big leagues or the senior circuit. He was irritated by a late bogey and failing to birdie the par-5 ninth, settling for a 67. That was enough to remind him he can still challenge the best.

“I’m not surprised,” Stricker said. “I expect to play well.”

Woods made a number of key putts but most were for par. Mickelson said he ran out of energy, which he feared coming into the week.