Spieth rides high in Texas, Willett at the K Club in Ireland

IRVING (Texas) • Jordan Spieth backed up his words with a six-under 64 to move within one stroke of the first-round lead at golf's Byron Nelson Championship on Thursday.

Six days after missing the cut at the Players Championship, the world No. 2 signalled his intentions at his hometown event with a chip-in birdie at the first hole at the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving.

He continued to take advantage of benign conditions on the rain-softened layout on a day when Spaniard Sergio Garcia, New Zealander Danny Lee and American Johnson Wagner led on 63.

Spieth maintained that there was nothing wrong with his game apart from a bit of rust, and if Thursday was not definitive proof, it certainly was a step in the right direction.

"Holing the chip (on the first hole), I saved a stroke-and-a-half on that shot," he said. "Took advantage of the easier holes and made a couple of mid-range putts.

"Lost a little control with my iron play on some pretty easy shots that I will look to improve on but other than that, I'm pretty pleased."

Elsewhere, Masters champion Danny Willett returned to Europe on an impressive high to upstage tournament host Rory McIlroy on the opening day of the Irish Open.

The Englishman sank eight birdies in a seven-under 65 to lead the Ulsterman by two shots at the K Club in Straffan.

World No. 9 Willett and McIlroy, who is currently third in the world rankings, were in a class of their own with both dropping just one shot in their opening rounds.

"This is the first time I have played this golf course and it's just fantastic. Every hole's different. There are a few really challenging holes, a few good, fun holes," said Willett. "You really can't go out there and expect to shoot any kind of number but a 65 was far beyond my expectations for today."

McIlroy's round not only equalled a 67 he shot in the 2008 Irish Open but it was 13 shots fewer than an 80 he began the event with a year ago.

"I really tried to focus on being 100 per cent ready when the gun went off on the first tee and I felt like I've done that for the most part," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BYRON NELSON C'SHIP
Day 3: StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 1am

IRISH OPEN
Day 3: StarHub Ch204, 4.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Spieth rides high in Texas, Willett at the K Club in Ireland'. Print Edition | Subscribe