The drama that comes with a PGA Tour player and his putter is real.
Such is the case for Jordan Spieth.
Spieth pulled it together enough to shoot a 2-under 68 in Thursday’s first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
“I don’t even know what kind it is, it’s a Scotty Cameron, but I don’t know what model,” he said of his putter. “It’s just one of those things where I needed to make a little change for now.
“I’ve done it before, at the 2014 British Open on the weekend and in Akron. Both of those times, I just needed a little change. This one helps me line up a little better right now.”
Spieth is the sixth-ranked player in the world and ranks second in greens in regulation on the PGA Tour.
But his putting statistics have fallen off sharply from last season. Spieth ranks 95th in putts per round and 198th in first-round putting.
On Thursday, he was .613 in strokes gained putting, meaning he gained a little over half-a-shot on the field.
While his usual dance partner, a Scotty Cameron 009, didn’t make the starting lineup, Spieth switched to a black Cameron Futura.
“I’ve obviously used a putter that I’ve worn out over a number of years, but I’m falling into a nice line and a nice setup with this one,” Spieth said. “I just haven’t quite dialed in the speed yet. I was a little off on the speed today, but hopefully I can make the adjustments.”
World’s No. 1
Dustin Johnson hit just 11 greens Thursday, but showed with his short game why he’s the top-ranked player in the world.
Johnson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, had a strokes gained average of 3.174 after just 24 putts in the first round.
He had 5 birdies against two bogies and birdied both par 5’s.
Johnson, who hit just seven fairways, but had a driving distance average of 307.5 yards, had to get to up-and-down on three of his final six holes and closed with a two-putt par from 60 feet on the 18th hole.
Looking for 20
Ernie Els was 2-over after the front nine Thursday afternoon, but rallied with a closing 32 to get to one-under and a round of 69.
He had four birdies and a bogey on the back-nine.
The 19-time winner is looking for that magic 20th victory, which would earn him lifetime membership on the PGA Tour. Currently, just Vijay Singh and Tom Watson are eligible for tournaments in this category.
Other players like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino qualify as lifetime members, but are considered exempt based on PGA Championship and US Open victories prior to 1970.
If Tiger Woods remains sidelined through 2018, he will fall into this category for Tour eligibility.
Brooks Keopka had a close encounter with an unidentified varmint in Thursday’s first round.
Thanks to a poor tee shot, Keopka and several gallery members were in the process of looking for his golf ball in high rough on the left side of the No. 9 fairway when Keopka abruptly jerked himself upward.
“I’m not sure what it was, it was just left of my ball, it scared the [expletive] out of me,” he said. “It was either a frog or a rat, but whatever it was, it dove under some grass there and took off.”
Keopka finished bogey-bogey to drop back to minus-3 and a round of 67.
UTA golf coach Stuart Deane went around the TPC Four Season’s course in even-par 70 Thursday.
That gives the second-year coach and journeyman Tour pro a legitimate shot at making the cut and a potential paycheck to supplement his coaching income.
“The short game was good,” Deane said. “We missed it in the right places and they weren’t hard up-and-downs. Knowing where to miss it was a big piece of it. I got off to a nice comfortable start and only made a couple of mental mistakes. All in all, it was a pretty comfortable even-par.”
TPC Four Seasons Director of Golf Paul Earnest, making a final start in the tournament he’s helped host for 20 years, fired a 79 in the first round.
This is Earnest’s sixth start in the Byron Nelson and essentially a victory lap for the former University of Texas golfer and the Four Seasons.
Earnest received a sponsor’s exemption from the Salesmanship Club, which operates the tournament and will move it to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas next year.