Jordan Spieth’s putter was once closer to a magic wand than to a golf club, and the former Longhorn had one of those days Thursday at the Valspar Championship.
The three-time major champion holed nearly 148 feet of putts in his bogey-free 4-under 67 to open at Innisbrook, including a 57-footer for birdie on the par-3 15th and a 31-footer for birdie on the par-4 sixth.
Full-field scores from Valspar Championship
When he finished his opening round, he was gaining more than 4.5 shots putting, more than enough to lead the field.
“I was able to sneak a couple extras with the putter today,” Spieth said. “I've been feeling like my putting's been working towards where I really want it to be. I felt like I made a few really nice par saves from that 4- to 8-foot range that kept that round alive.”
Par was the name of the game for Spieth Thursday, with par streaks of four, seven and three holes. Having started on the par-4 10th at Innisbrook, Spieth got his round kickstarted with three consecutive birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 16, eventually adding another birdie on the sixth. He could only play the four par 5s in 1 under.
As good as Spieth was with the putter, his performance with the driver kept a good round from becoming a great round. He hit just five of 13 fairways, gaining less than three-tenths of a shot off the tee.
“With only hitting like five-ish fairways, you do that around this place and shoot under par, it's pretty solid,” Spieth said. “My ball striking has been really solid, including off the tee, in the last month or so and it just needs to tighten up a little bit. I didn't feel like I did great work the last three days and it kind of felt that way today. So hopefully just gets better each day.”
Spieth played alongside two-time defending champion Sam Burns Thursday morning. Burns had the upper hand most of the day, but bogeyed two of his final five holes to finish 2 under. The 13-time Tour winner enjoyed playing alongside the 2021 and ’22 champ.
“So, you know, when you're playing with Sam, you kind of know what the standard is out here, so you're just trying – if you beat him, you probably beat everybody else based on the last couple years,” Spieth said. “So it's fun to watch him kind of work shots around this place, especially roll it on these greens.”
Spieth – who is looking to win for the first time since the 2022 RBC Heritage and only the third time since the 2017 Open Championship – trailed Ryan Brehm, Stephan Jaeger and Adam Schenk after the first round. All three opened in 5-under 66, but Brehm had the highlight of the day with a hole-in-one at the 196-yard par-3 17th.
“It kind of surprised me when I saw it go in the hole, honestly,” Brehm said. “But we got a good reaction. It was a lot of fun. I was really just trying to cover the front edge of the green, and we had the wind that was down off of the right. I think we had 189 to cover the front edge and it probably flew almost 200 yards. So it was pretty fun to see that thing trickle in.”
Brehm said it’s the first ace he’s made in roughly 15 years, yet it’s the second time he holed out from a tee box this week.
During Monday’s pro-am, Brehm hit his tee shot on the 190-yard par-3 13th into the water, re-teed and holed his third shot for par.
“It must be something about this week,” Brehm said.
Justin Thomas, the pre-tournament betting favorite, finished alongside Burns at 2 under par.