When Jordan Spieth’s putter warms up, watch out.
On Thursday, the 29-year-old three-time major champion poured in 147 feet, nine inches of putts to spark a 4-under 67 at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida.
“I felt like I made a few really nice par saves from that 4- to 8-foot range that kept that round alive,” Spieth said. “Bogey-free around this track is not something you’re going to do every day. So very pleased with it.”
It wasn’t just the clutch par putts that were falling during the first round for Spieth. He gained more than four strokes to the field on the greens, reeling off three birdies in a row starting at No. 14, his fifth hole of the day, and adding another at the sixth after flaring his drive to the right and into the trees.
“When I struck the tee ball, it’s just a crap shoot,” he said. “I stole another on No. 6, with a pretty good break.”
Spieth had a decent lie and a swing and sliced a gap wedge, managing to hit his second shot to 32 feet and sinking the putt.
“Does he ever do anything conventionally?” asked PGA Tour Live commentator Will MacKenzie.
That wasn’t even the longest putt of the day for Spieth, who drained a 58-foot birdie putt at the par-3 15th. Spieth ended the day a stroke off the lead of Ryan Brehm, who shot 66 with an ace at the par-3 17th, and Stephen Jaeger.
“I’m not comfortable out there at all, but I don’t think anybody really is,” Brehm said. “Maybe Sam Burns.”
Burns, 26, has been in a class all by himself the last two years at this event. He’s seeking a three-peat this week at the Valspar Championship and opened with 2-under 69, which actually was slightly above his tournament scoring average of 68.33 heading into this week.
“Winning is out of my control,” said Burns, who was pleased with his iron play in the first round. “I just try to go out there and play the best that I can and add it up at the end.”
Spieth is playing at a course that brings back fond memories for him too. A decade ago, a T-7 at this event was a launching pad to special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.
“That was huge,” he said. “That opened up all the opportunities for the rest of the year that kind of was a springboard for getting all the way to the Tour Championship and then the Presidents Cup and just really, really great memories that I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the finish to this event.”
Spieth also won at Innisbrook in a playoff in 2015. But he hasn’t played the Valspar Championship since 2018. Two years ago, he pulled out of the field ahead of the tournament due to COVID-19 and last year he had a conflict with his brother’s wedding being held the same weekend. Spieth is happy to be back and even more so after signing for a clean card where his putter was more friend than foe.
“With only hitting like five-ish fairways, you do that around this place and shoot under par, it’s pretty solid. I was able to sneak a couple extras with the putter today,” he said. “I need to tighten it up a little bit, we’ve got some wind coming tomorrow. Really good start, needed to get off to a good start with the weather (expected to worsen) Friday through the weekend.”