Sydney — Defending champion Jordan Spieth failed to take advantage of ideal scoring conditions at the Australian Open on Friday, shooting an even-par 71 to fall further behind the leaders.
After an opening 70, he was at 1-under 141 and eight strokes behind clubhouse leader Lucas Herbert, who shot 66 on Friday and was at 9-under 133. Spieth trailed by seven strokes after the opening round.
First-round leader Cameron Davis, who led by two strokes after a 63, had an afternoon start, as did Jason Day, who trailed Davis by three shots.
Spieth, who hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup in late September, has won the Australian Open two out of the last three years and finished second the other time.
At least his morning start Saturday means he will avoid the windy conditions that the leading groups will have to contend with at The Australian in the afternoon.
And that left him optimistic about a comeback. In 2014, he shot a then course-record 63 at The Australian Golf Club to win his first Australian title by six shots.
“I feel like you can make up more ground and come from behind here over I think any tournament I’ve played this entire year,” Spieth said. “The golf course will start to bake out and you get really calm conditions in the morning that leave the windier conditions for the afternoon, so I’ll have a pretty gettable golf course. If I can post something like 5, 6-under, then I’m very much in this tournament.”
Spieth said the seven-week layoff was the longest he’s had since his college days and that he felt rusty and nervous at times during his first round, which featured five bogeys in windy conditions.
The wind began to pick up late in Spieth’s round Friday, as did his frustration level at times. On the par-4 sixth — his 15th of the day — his drive traveled well over 300 meters, so far that it reached a spectator crossing area that officials obviously felt was far enough from the tee.
Spieth took a drop from it, but his approach to the green failed to spin back, leaving him a putt of at least 20 feet. He missed his birdie attempt.
“It’s just been the short game rust that’s kind of hurt me a bit the last couple of days that prevents me from being 5 or so under,” Spieth said.
At least he birdied the ninth — his last hole Friday. Finishing on even-par would have left him just one stroke away from the projected cut, which could have changed based on afternoon scoring.
“That was only my second one-putt of the day,” Spieth said. “The other was for par.”
S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 65 and a one stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 season.
Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.
“Very tough conditions today,” Chawrasia said. “It’s very firm greens, to be honest. I’m just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.”
Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.
“Hit it great tee to green,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it’s so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.”
Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.
“I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,” Rose said. “I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.”
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.