Putting his woes behind

Having switched putters twice this season, Spieth gets it right to grab lead at Travelers

HARTFORD (Connecticut) • Jordan Spieth put an emphatic end to his putting woes to post the lowest opening-round score of his career with a seven-under 63 at the Travelers Championship.

The 23-year-old, coming off a disappointing tie for 35th at the US Open last week after going cold on the greens, made his eighth birdie on Thursday on his last hole to seize a one-shot lead.

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who like Spieth is playing in the event for the first time, shot a 67 after missing the cut at the US Open.

Tied for second were Americans Johnson Wagner and Brett Stegmaier after posting 64s in the morning.

Compatriot Spieth, seeking his second PGA Tour win of the season, played in the afternoon at the 6,841-yard River Highlands course.

The world No. 6 has already switched putters twice this season but his flatstick was working just fine on Thursday.

He rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the first hole to spark a round where he needed just 27 putts.

"That one going in on the first was big for me," said the two-time Major winner after equalling his low round of the year. "And then I made one on the (par-four) fourth that was a putt that required a lot of precision, kind of a right-edge putt.

"If you get it started outside it misses, inside it could break off, and I thought when that one went in is when I really started to feel good with the putter."

It has not always been that way this season. The Texan dropped to 40th in strokes gained: putting this term. He was second in that statistic last year and ninth during his breakout 2015 season.

"I'm going to do what I've been doing tee to green," said Spieth, who hit eight of 14 fairways in regulation and 15 of 18 greens. "That's the idea. Stay focused tee to green."

He had just one blemish on his scorecard - a bogey on the par-four ninth.

McIlroy missed several short birdie putts but managed to scramble for par on most of those holes.

"I feel like I could have been at least three or four better," said the Northern Irishman. "I think I hit five or six putts out there that hit the hole and didn't go in."

Among those level with him are Patrick Reed, David Lingmerth and Jim Furyk, whose final-round 58 last year at the Travelers is the lowest round on the PGA Tour.

Defending champion Russell Knox finished with a 69.

Former world No. 1 Jason Day struggled to a 72 after mixing a double-bogey with three bogeys and three birdies.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Putting his woes behind'. Print Edition | Subscribe