Spieth makes dynamic start as Woods slides to a 76 in British Open first round
ST ANDREWS, Scotland – Jordan Spieth made a flying start in his bid to win a third consecutive major as he took advantage of benign conditions to fire a five-under par 67 and tuck in two strokes off the lead in the British Open first round on Thursday.
While the 21-year-old was operating in turbo-charged gear in barely a breath of wind, former world number one and twice Open champion at St Andrews Tiger Woods was stuck in reverse as he slumped to a sad four-over par 76.
Spieth, though, had to give second best to playing partner Dustin Johnson who conjured a sizzling 65 containing five birdies and an eagle to set the pace.
“This venue here is one of my favourite Opens,” Johnson told reporters. “I really like the golf course and I think it sets up well for me.”
Sharing second place on 66 were Johnson’s fellow American Robert Streb, South African Retief Goosen, Britain’s Paul Lawrie and Australian Jason Day.
The contrast in styles was stark as Johnson, who was pipped for the U.S. Open title by Spieth last month, launched a succession of monster drives while his rival relied on strategy, deadly accurate approaches and a magical touch with the putter. All eyes were on the US Masters and US Open champion Spieth at the start and he gave an early statement of his intent by ramming in a six-foot birdie putt at the first.
The world number two, looking dapper in a grey sweater and white trousers, continued to play smart golf and added a second birdie when he rolled in a 12-foot putt at the next hole.
Spieth, bidding to emulate compatriot Ben Hogan who won the year’s first three majors in 1953, showed he was human by missing from eight feet at the third.
A birdie hat-trick from the fifth sent him sprinting through the field and another silky putting stroke at the 11th earned him his sixth birdie.
Spieth scolded himself after driving into a bunker at the 13th, a mistake that cost him a dropped shot. He also bogeyed the 17th but hit back like a champion, caressing a curling 20-foot birdie putt into the middle of the final hole.
“I played the front nine exactly how I mapped it out.” said Spieth, whose decision to stay in the United States to play last week instead of practicing at St Andrews was questioned by some observers.
“We did some good preparation but if the wind changes direction it could be a completely different course. “It will not be a birdie-fest on Friday though.”
The 31-year-old Johnson sprinted to the turn in five-under 31 and appeared all set to drop his first shot of the round at the 17th until he sunk a par-saving effort from 15 feet.
Woods, looking to end a seven-year wait for a major victory, made a wretched start, dropping five shots in the opening 10 holes.
The 39-year-old, who won golf’s oldest major when it was played at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005, picked up his only birdie of the day at the 14th but now faces a mountain to climb to make the cut after Friday’s second round. –Reuters