LOS ANGELES • Jordan Spieth was basking in the Hawaiian sun until his day fell apart in stunning fashion with a late quadruple-bogey to finish six shots back of first-round Sony Open leaders Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk on Thursday.
World No. 2 Spieth, the highest-ranked player at the Waialae Country Club, was inside the top five when he reached his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth, where disaster struck and he fell back to even par.
The three-time Major champion birdied his final hole for a one-under 69 that left him tied for 65th on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, but it did little to ease the sting of the quadruple-bogey eight.
Spieth, who is riding a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes and had been installed as the favourite a week after a ninth-placed finish at Kapalua, declined to speak with the media following his round.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, who last year opened with a 59 before going on to set the PGA Tour's all-time scoring record in a 72-hole event at 253, could not conjure up that same magic as he carded a three-under 67.
Twice Major winner Johnson carded a bogey-free seven-under 63 that included a birdie at the 18th to grab a share of the lead with Kirk, who had four birdies over the final six holes. The duo were one shot ahead of Vaughn Taylor, Kyle Stanley, Talor Gooch and Brian Harman.
Johnson admitted that his round was a pleasant surprise, after a bout of flu cost him some pre-season practice time.
"I came here later than I anticipated - like four or five days later and I had zero expectations on my game," the 41-year-old said. "That being said, sometimes it's nice, you just kind of go out there, find a rhythm and then just stick with it."
Kirk, whose most recent victory was at Colonial in 2015, said a return to his old putting routines had paid off on the greens.
"I'm kind of going back to some of the drills that I did four, five years ago when I was putting week in, week out really well, and trying to do those drills every day," he said.
"I had a great day today. It's laziness, I guess, not doing it consistently over the last couple of years."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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