By Brian Wacker
Jordan Spieth’s plan in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship was to take the lead because he prefers to play from in front.
It didn’t exactly work out.
Spieth stumbled to a one-over 72 at Quail Hollow and is five back of leader Thorbjorn Olesen.
“I can’t putt any worse than I did today,” said Spieth, who, if you haven’t heard because you’ve been living in an underwater cave for the past month, is trying to become the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam.
The 24-year-old Texan was mostly right. Not long after finishing his round from the morning wave, Spieth ranked 140th of 156 players in strokes gained/putting, having lost 2.109 strokes to the field on difficult greens that caused players to be defensive.
He took 32 total putts and missed several chances from 10 to 20 feet.
Other than a terrific two-putt from 70 feet on his second hole of the day, the par-4 12th after starting on the 10th hole, where he came within a few inches of making a big right-to-left sweeper down a ridge, little went right with the best club in his bag.
There was a missed 13-footer for birdie on 11, another blank from 12 feet on 13, a 15-foot par putt on 16 that missed.
Once Spieth made the turn things didn’t get any better.
There was a failed 10-footer for par on the 527-yard, par-4 first, a 12-footer for birdie on No. 2 that stayed out, a 15-footer for another birdie on the next hole the didn’t go in.
Then came two bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6, where Spieth couldn’t save par from 11 and 12 feet, respectively.
The moment that summed up Spieth’s day with the putter best (or is it worst)? That came on the reachable par-4 14th, where instead of laying up, Spieth drove to the front of the green, then sent his 70-footer wide right and eventually off the green before two-putting for par.
“Some of these putts that I had for birdie are really one-out-of-five maybe to make,” he said. “On other greens you are looking at 50 percent. Out here, it’s just the way it is. The pins are on 2½ to 3 degree slopes. … They are difficult to make if you don’t leave it below the hole with not a lot of break.”
Still, Spieth didn’t shoot himself out of the tournament, making birdie on the par-5 seventh and another on the eighth after stuffing a wedge to two feet.
“I hit some good putts that missed,” he said. “I didn’t make the one-out-of-five. Instead I missed the 10-out-of-10 from that kind of range. If I grabbed a couple of those then I would be pleased, obviously.
“If I would have shot one over and didn’t strike it well and everything was average, it would have been fine. But 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.”