CHARLOTTE (North Carolina) • Not even the inspiration of being watched by pal Michael Phelps, the Olympic swim legend with a record 23 golds, could help Jordan Spieth solve his putting woes on Thursday at the PGA Championship.
The golf world No. 2, seeking a career Grand Slam at age 24 after winning the British Open last month, struggled to a one-over 72 in the opening round at Quail Hollow, five shots behind co-leaders Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Kevin Kisner of the United States.
He needed 32 putts to navigate the faster-than-expected greens, which proved formidable despite absorbing an inch of rain at the start of the week.
"I can't putt any worse than I did today," said Spieth, who chose to instead take comfort in his accurate driving, not always his strong suit.
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"If you told me I was going to hit my driver the way I did today, I would have definitely thought I shot a few under par, which was an awesome score.
"The score won't be any higher than it was today if I'm driving the ball like today."
The disappointing score came as Phelps walked the course watching Spieth launch his bid to become only the sixth man to win all four Major titles in his career, and be the youngest to do it.
(Selected, USA unless stated)
67 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Kevin Kisner
68 Grayson Murray, Brooks Koepka,
Gary Woodland, Chris Stroud, D.A. Points
69 Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey (Eng),
Jim Herman, Bud Cauley, Rickie Fowler,
70 Hideki Matsuyana (Jpn), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng),
Jason Day (Aus), Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm (Esp)
71 Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Adam Scott (Aus), Matt Kuchar
72 Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy (Nir)
73 Li Haotong (Chn)
74 Henrik Stenson (Swe)
75 Sergio Garcia (Esp)
76 Luke Donald (Eng), Yang Yong Eun (Kor), Justin Rose (Eng)
79 Phil Mickelson
80 Ernie Els (Rsa)
"It was great," Spieth said of Phelps' presence. "He has become a good friend and mentor. It's pretty awesome to have a mentor like that.
"He texted earlier in the week. We've had dinner, talked through a lot of things that I will probably just keep to myself. A lot of mental approach and preparation stuff."
Such things are just what Spieth will need if he is to lift the Wanamaker Trophy tomorrow and join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan on the career Slam list.
"When I had the chances that I had and I just couldn't get the ball to go in on the greens, that is when I get the most frustrated I can get out there," Spieth added.
"I don't think I missed any short putts. I just had really poor speed on my really long ones. Everything else was fine. It was just the putter."
Spieth began on the back nine and made the turn at level par but had three bogeys in the first six holes on the front, missing 10-foot par putts in each case.
A three-footer for birdie at the par-five seventh and a tap-in birdie at eight lifted some of the gloom.
"I needed those from short range because it seemed like the lid was on today.
"I burned a lot of edges. Some were good putts, some weren't," the American added.
He was not the only one who struggled. The greens were so dangerous that it was as if the entire field played under a caution flag.
There were no sudden moves, just careful jockeying as the players tried to avoid a big crack-up on the par-71, 7,588-yard layout of Piedmont pinestraw and humidity.
"The greens are as firm as I've ever seen, probably any greens at a PGA Championship," said world No. 4 Rory McIlroy, who fired a 72 to share 33rd with Spieth.
"That makes things difficult as well. It's definitely playing a few shots harder than it usually is and, as it's a Major championship, it should be."
US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who carded a 68, added: "The greens are so fast, so delicate, you're just worried about running it past. It's hard to feel like you can get aggressive on a putt.
For those who survived the greens and remained in contention, there was no relief in sight.
"The thing is, they are only going to get faster and firmer," Koepka added.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP Day 3
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