SILVIS, Illinois (AFP) - World No. 2 golfer Jordan Spieth struggled in his return to the PGA Tour on Thursday, firing an even-par 71 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic, the final tune-up before the British Open.
He is having a year for the ages after winning the first two Major championships of the season and is hoping to use the John Deere event as a springboard for success at the British Open, which begins in one week.
The 21-year-old has happy memories of the John Deere after winning the event as a teenager in 2013 to become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 82 years, beating Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a play-off.
But he has his work cut out for him if he is to do it again, as he finished eight shots back of the leaders on Thursday with three bogeys, three birdies and 12 pars in the first round at the TPC Deere Run. Spieth was six shots back after round one when he won in 2013.
Americans Justin Thomas and Nicholas Thompson shot matching 63s to grab a one-stroke lead on Thursday. Thomas, who contended at last week's Greenbrier Classic and is gunning for his first US tour title, rolled in 10 birdies.
Luke Guthrie bogeyed the last hole and he fell into a share of third place with Charles Howell a stroke back.
Veteran American Steve Stricker, who has won this event three times, is in the hunt once again following his 65. He is tied for fifth with Robert Garrigus, Daniel Summerhays, Shawn Stefani and Steven Alker.
Defending champion Brian Harman shot a 67, putting him in a tie for 21st.