Rising American talent Jordan Spieth upstaged Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott with a four-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian Open.
The 21-year-old Texan stormed to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie blitz on the back nine and made it clear he had not come to Australia to be a spectator at a duel between the No 1 and No 3 players in the world.
Defending champion McIlroy battled jet lag and tricky early conditions to emerge with a 69 for a share of fourth, while world No 3 Scott finished seven shots off the pace following an untidy round of 74.
Spieth, playing with Scott, started with birdies at the first and fifth before stalling with a bogey at the sixth, but it was not until the turn that he really hit his stride. He picked up a shot at the tenth and then eased clear of the field with three birdies in a row from the 14th before falling back towards the pack with a second bogey at the 17th.
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Sliding a four-foot birdie putt inches past the hole on the 18th meant he had to be satisfied with just the one-stroke edge over Australians Aron Price and Scott Gardiner, who both shot 68s.
“Overall it was a solid round, I putted great,” he said. “It’s a challenging golf course, there’s trouble around every turn if you are not hitting it in the right spots. But I had a great time.”
While Spieth and Scott were among the later starters, McIlroy had set his alarm for 4:30a.m. and played out his round under leaden skies with frequent showers. The Northern Irishman mixed four birdies with a couple of bogeys to share fourth with six others.
“I thought anything under par today was a decent score and it was nice to birdie the last and shoot something in the 60s,” he said. “It puts me right there going into tomorrow.”
Last year, McIlroy also shot a 69 in the opening round at the par-72 Royal Sydney as Scott soared into the lead with a ten-under-par course record. It was apparent that the Australian was not going to have a similar day yesterday when he double-bogeyed the first and overcooked a putt to drop another shot at the third.
“On the back foot again from the first day, again,” he said after taking a share of 82nd. “I’ve got to play three really great days now. Seems that’s what I’m doing most weeks now.”
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