Thursday's roundup: Spieth struggles in first round

Associated Press

Hilton Head Island, S.C. — It's been quite some time since Jordan Spieth had to explain a performance this poor.

The Masters champion had a post-Masters letdown in the opening round Thursday, shooting 3-over 74 to end his run of 16 straight rounds under par. He blamed it all on himself — and not the two-day celebratory media tour in New York this week.

"I didn't drive the ball well, didn't particularly strike my irons well. My chipping and putting weren't there," he said. "It was just an off day."

And the sort of performance that stands in stark contrast with how Spieth played the past month. He won the Valspar Championship, finished second at the Texas Open and lost a playoff in the Houston Open before capturing the green jacket and his first major championship at Augusta National.

It was a lot to ask of anyone to come back just as strong, let alone a 21-year-old who hadn't gone through it before.

"No excuses, I just didn't have it today," he said.

He better have it on Friday if he hopes to hang around for the weekend. Spieth stands eight shots behind Graeme McDowell and Matt Every, tied for the top at 5-under 66.

"Got a good feeling about tomorrow," Spieth said. "Feel like I got some swings in, got in somewhat of a rhythm and can at least go out and feel the shots."

Don't bet against the young Texan.

He got into Sea Pines Resort late Tuesday night after some 25 appearances and interviews in New York, including an appearance with David Letterman and seeing the view atop the Empire State Building. He acknowledged his preparation this week had suffered.

Spieth was greeted by a large gallery on the first tee, crowds five and six deep stretching cellphones to snap pictures and get video footage. "Way to go, Jordan," someone shouted after his tee shot.

The applause continued throughout the round and, while Spieth appreciated the sentiment, had difficulty concentrating on his game.

"I was upset about missing the green and then there was a standing ovation walking up," he said. "It's like, 'Thank you. I just hit a terrible shot. Thanks.' So it was kind of tough to find the balance there."

It was clear, though, this would not be the Spieth who tied the Masters scoring mark of 18-under 270 set by Tiger Woods in 1997.

He was in perfect position on the par-5 second, which played the easiest in round one, when he left his approach shot short and in the bunker. Spieth could not make an 8-footer to save birdie. He was short of the green again on the par-4 sixth hole, leading to the first of three bogeys — Spieth had just one bogey in his first 36 holes at Augusta National.

The wheels truly came off at the par-3 14th when Spieth hit into the water and watched his third shot spin back about 15 feet from the cup. He made a double-bogey 5.

He hasn't had many days like this in 2015 — and neither had McDowell, who hadn't shot lower than 71 in his previous 12 rounds, including all four at last week's Masters when he tied for 52nd.

McDowell, though, found his game on the layout's tight fairways and small greens. He had six birdies after an opening bogey to move in front.

"It was great to feel comfortable out there today, see my lines, hit my speeds and make a few putts," said McDowell, who has not won on tour since taking this title in 2013.

It's been a strange season for Every, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month yet hadn't finished better than 27th in any of his 11 other events.

He had birdies on four of his final eight holes, including a 50-foot chip in on the sixth hole and a 20-foot chip in on the seventh, to tie McDowell. Every stayed in the lead when he chipped to a foot on the eighth hole to save par.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," he said.

After Bae, defending champion Matt Kuchar led a group of five another stroke back at 68. Ian Poulter and former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen were in a group of 12 at 69.


Sei Young Kim shot her second straight 5-under 67 for a share of the second-round lead with fellow South Korean player I.K. Kim in the breezy Lotte Championship at Kapolei, Hawaii.

Sei Young Kim, the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic winner in February in her second start as an LPGA Tour member, had seven birdies and two bogeys at Ko Olina.

I.K. Kim fell back with bogey at the ninth, but charged into a share of the lead with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15. The three-time LPGA Tour champion had a 69.

South Korean players held six of the top seven spots. Third-ranked Inbee Park (70) was three shots back, and American Paula Creamer bogeyed the final hole for a 69 to match Chella Choi (68), Mirim Lee (69) and Jenny Shin (70) at 6 under.

Defending champion Michelle Wie was tied for eighth at 5 under after a 69 in her home event. She holed out for eagle from 117 yards out on the par-4 15th hole.

European Tour

Huang Wenyi, a former laborer from China who didn't start playing golf until he was 22, shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead in the Shenzhen International at Shenzen, China.

The 34-year-old Huang had eight birdies and two bogeys at Genzon Golf Club. American Peter Uihlein was tied for second with Chile's Felipe Aguilar, Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat and South Korea's Byeong Hun An. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson opened with a 70.