Watson takes control as Spieth falters

Bubba Watson plays his way out of a bunker at the sixth green during the first round of The Barclays on Thursday. His five-under 65 gives him a four-way share of the lead.
Bubba Watson plays his way out of a bunker at the sixth green during the first round of The Barclays on Thursday. His five-under 65 gives him a four-way share of the lead.PHOTO: REUTERS

EDISON (New Jersey) • Bubba Watson charged into a tie for the first-round lead at The Barclays on Thursday while newly crowned world No. 1 Jordan Spieth struggled to his worst score of the year in relation to par.

Two-time Masters champion Watson used a red-hot outward nine as a springboard en route to a five-under 65 at Plainfield Country Club, setting the pace with fellow Americans Spencer Levin and Tony Finau as well as Colombia's Camilo Villegas.

New Zealander Danny Lee, Americans Jason Dufner, Cameron Tringale and Bryce Molder, and Britons Paul Casey and Russell Knox opened with 66s in the first of the PGA Tour's four lucrative FedExCup play-off events.

Spieth, however, was let down by his usually stellar short game as he limped to a 74 in his first competitive round since he replaced Rory McIlroy at the top of the rankings.

"After the tee shots, that is the worst round I've played in years," Masters and US Open champion Spieth, who hit 11 of 14 fairways, said. "It was really a very unique round for this year. I hit my first 11 fairways today and that's really hard to do out here.

"Typically, when I hit the fairways, I'm not over par. That's what was weird about the round."

Spieth covered his front nine in a two-under 34 but then ran up five bogeys, a double at the par-three third after his tee shot found water and a lone birdie after the turn.

The best putter in the game recorded two three-putt bogeys as he carded his worst score since a first-round 75 at the Players Championship in May.

Watson, who played with Spieth and PGA Championship winner Jason Day of Australia, surged to the top of the leaderboard with five birdies in his first nine holes.

He picked up two more shots before a poor swing at the par-three sixth and a three-putt at the tricky ninth cost him two bogeys in his last four holes.

"All in all, it's a good round but the back nine... if I just make a better swing on the par-three and then a two-putt, it's not too bad," he said. "I missed the cut the last time I played here so we are ahead of the curve right now."

World No. 3 Day, who withdrew from Wednesday's pro-am competition due to a back issue, opened with a 68.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Watson takes control as Spieth falters'. Print Edition | Subscribe