Thursday’s roundup: Villegas leads, Spieth staggers
Los Angeles — Jordan Spieth was everywhere he wasn’t supposed to be at Riviera Country Club and wound up with a 79 in the Northern Trust Open.
Spieth called it a day to forget. It was his worst score since an 80 in the 2014 Tour Championship.
For Camilo Villegas, it was a day to savor. He ran off four consecutive birdies late in his round and challenged the course record until a bogey on his final hole for a 63. He led by three shots over Bubba Watson, Chez Reavie and Luke List.
Spieth ended his round with a three-putt from 8 feet for a double bogey.
“It’s just a day to forget,” Spieth said. “It’s one in, hopefully, every couple years. I’ve shot 80 before — I’ve shot in the 80s a couple times on tour. I think I shot 79 today. In the course of a career, I imagine it’s going to happen. Just unfortunate when it actually does.”
Even at the end of the round, there was still a chance his score could go up. Spieth summoned a rules official to the scoring area and asked them to review video of his third shot on the ninth hole to make sure the ball didn’t move.
If it did, he would be penalized one shot under Rule 18-2.
“I don’t think it moved, and they’re going to be able to check with TV and let me know tomorrow,” Spieth said. “I’m sure it didn’t. It caught my attention because the club got a little stuck. Typically, it would do as you’re setting it down. And it was oscillating as I took it back, as it (the club) got stuck.”
Watson got off to a solid start with seven birdies for a 5-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Chez Reavie and Luke List among the early starters.
Rory McIlroy, in his American debut for 2016 and his first time at Riviera Country Club, opened with a 67, along with Illinois senior Charlie Danielson.
“I just want to let everyone know that I love the golf course and I love the community,” Watson said with a grin.
That was a reference to the abuse he took two weeks ago at the Phoenix Open when he said he didn’t like the changes made to golf course and was booed heavily on the 16th.
That’s not the case at Riviera, where the course seems to be as big of a star as the players.
“It’s all about hitting the right trajectories, hitting the right line and hopefully on certain pins, hitting the fairway so you can produce a little bit of spin,” Watson said. “It’s just a traditional, old-school golf course that’s got a lot of history.”
It helped that rain arrived Wednesday afternoon and was steady through the day.
McIlroy has no history at all at Riviera. He came over from Florida for the first time because of all he had heard about the golf course, and he hasn’t been disappointed.
“I hit the ball pretty well from tee-to-green,” McIlroy said.“Put myself out of position a couple of times, but with the way the conditions of the golf course were, it didn’t punish you as bad as if it would have been as firm as it was the last couple of days.”
SooBin Kim shot a course-record 9-under 63 to leave defending champion and No. 1 Lydia Ko seven strokes behind at the Australian Open in Adelaide.
Kim’s round came after starting on the 10th hole of The Grange’s West course. She had a three-stroke lead over Casey Grice and Caroline Masson.
Five-time champion Karrie Webb was in a group with 67s, four behind.
Australia’s Nathan Holman shot a 7-under 64 in hot conditions at Royal Selangor to take a one-stroke lead in the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur.
England’s Danny Willett, coming off a victory two weeks ago in Dubai, was a stroke back along with countryman Tommy Fleetwood, American Peter Uihlein, France’s Alexander Levy, the Philippines’ Angelo Que and Spain’s Jorge Campillo. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen had a 67, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer shot 71.
The tournament is sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.