Scotland’s Martin Laird was the leading European as Americans Michael Thompson, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth revelled in a birdie fest as they charged into a tie for the lead in the opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Thompson birdied five of the last eight holes for a seven-under-par 66 in breezy conditions at the picturesque Kapalua Resort in Hawaii to seize the early lead at the elite, winners-only event.
However, Thompson was caught at the top by a red-hot Kirk, pictured, who piled up five consecutive birdies from the 14th, and then Spieth, who calmly rolled in a 12-footer on the 18th green for his seventh birdie in a bogey-free round.
Late in the day, 2012 US Open champion Simpson made it a four-way share of the lead after recording three birdies in the last four holes at Kapalua’s undulating Plantation Course.
Laird, who earned a spot at the event by winning the Valero Texas Open in April, was in a share of 18th on two under, with only two of the 30-strong field over par.
After his round, Thompson said: “I played really well. I stuck to my game plan today which was to stay in the present, stay in the moment, visualise my shots really clearly and I executed. So it was a fun day.”
Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after a sensational campaign that included a maiden win at the John Deere Classic and total earnings of just under $4 million, said he was “humbled” to be in the elite field at Kapalua.
“It’s amazing,” the 20-year-old Texan smiled. “It’s an accomplishment just to be here in the first place and I am humbled to play alongside these 29 other guys that are champions from the past year.
“It’s good fun. To play Kapalua, a course I’ve watched for so many years, and then finally being able to be here, it’s a cool experience for me.”
Jason Dufner, winner of last year’s PGA Championship, opened with a 67 to end the opening round level with fellow Americans Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson and Kevin Streelman.
Masters champion and world No.2 Adam Scott of Australia mixed five birdies with two bogeys to card a 70, finishing level with playing partner Dustin Johnson after teeing off in the day’s marquee pairing. Johnson won by three shots last year.