Spieth finishes 1st-round 64 for early lead at soggy Riviera | PostIndependent.com

Spieth finishes 1st-round 64 for early lead at soggy Riviera

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press
A fan, right, celebrates as Jordan Spieth, foreground, hits into the hole on the second green for a birdie during the first round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
AP | AP

LOS ANGELES — Jordan Spieth had his lowest first-round score in eight months, and it must have felt as though it took about that long to do it.

Spieth added two birdies in the six holes he played Friday morning to finish off a 7-under 64 for a two-shot lead among the early starters who first showed up in the morning darkness the day before.

Throw in one shot that didn’t count Thursday morning — a good break for Spieth because he could barely find it — and a restart to the round because of rain and poor visibility from clouds that led to a seven-hour delay, and Spieth finished some 26 hours after he began.

He had the rest of the day off as Tiger Woods was just getting started.

Spieth had a two-shot lead on his side of the draw. Patrick Rodgers, Tony Finau and Kramer Hickok, a PGA Tour rookie who grew up with Spieth in Dallas, were at 66.

Jimmy Walker was among those at 67. So was Bill Haas, back at Riviera after he was involved in a fatal car crash last year.

Everyone will face a long day before the end of the week.

Woods finished the front nine with back-to-back birdies to get back to even par. He was set to start his second round Friday afternoon as soon as he completed his first, and likely would not have enough daylight to play 36 holes. Spieth and the early starters do not start the second round until Saturday morning.

The plan was to make the cut Saturday afternoon, play until dark and then try to wrap up on Sunday. Two years ago, Dustin Johnson had to play 36 holes on Sunday.

Spieth took advantage of the restart on Thursday. His opening shot on the par-4 10th hit the cart path twice and went into shin-high grass so thick that it would have been hard work just to get it out. The round was scrapped and he returned for a routine par.

He made the rest look easy except for the 13th hole, where he hooked his tee shot into a eucalyptus tree, played a slice on the outer side of the trees and got up-and-down for par.

“It was probably better than any of the birdies,” he said.

He holed two chips for birdie, one of them on the toughest hole at Riviera on No. 12, birdied all three of the par 5s and made a pair of birdie putts from about 10 feet when he returned Friday morning.

He said those six holes were the best the putter has felt in some time.

“I was able to kind of figure out a way to feel some freedom in the stroke and I was able to roll a couple of those in,” he said.

After some practice, he was headed home and not expecting to be atop the leaderboard when he returned. He played most of that bogey-free round in cold, windy conditions Thursday afternoon. There sunshine and no wind when Woods and the other later starters began, and while passing showers were in the forecast, it was ideal for scoring on a Riviera course that typically has more bounce to it.

Spieth last scored this low in the opening round with a 63 at the Travelers Championship, but he never felt good about his game that week and he finished in a tie for 42nd. His last two events in California, he has not broken par over the final two rounds.

“I got off to good starts my last couple events and I need to continue to work hard to improve each day here instead of kind of getting complacent and assuming that my game’s there,” he said. “It’s still not quite there tee to green, and luckily the putter started to heat up.”


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