World No 1 Jordan Spieth refused to write off his chances of winning the Northern Trust Open despite carding the worst opening round of his career at Riviera Country Club.
Spieth carded eight bogeys and a double bogey in an eight-over-par 79 which left him joint 142nd in the 144-man field, 16 shots behind leader Camilo Villegas.
But, having started the season by shooting 30 under par to win the Tournament of Champions by eight shots, the 22-year-old was not about to give up on an eighth PGA Tour title just yet.
“I felt like there was a couple rounds last week (in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) where I shot two under and I was more miserable than I was today,” said Spieth, who shot 82 in the Memorial Tournament in 2013 and 80 in the Tour Championship in 2014.
“It’s just a day to forget. It’s one in, hopefully, every couple of years. I’ve shot in the 80s a couple times on tour. In the course of a career I imagine it’s going to happen. Just unfortunate when it actually does.
“It’s amazing. I feel really confident about where my game is and had a great range session. Cameron (McCormick, his coach) is here and there was nothing pinpointed that was wrong. I just played really poorly from good positions off the tee and didn’t strike the iron shots bad either. I just overdrew it when you can’t be left and I overcut it when you can’t be right. Just bad timing.”
Overnight rain had left the course playing much softer than usual and Spieth admitted he struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions.
“I found it very difficult to trust the way the golf course is playing and I didn’t get off to a good start because of that,” the Masters and US Open champion added.
“I’ve never played the golf course soft. I’ve always played where you have to kind of float it on to the front of the greens and let it bounce and I just never trusted the adjustment.
“Again, it’s just a day to forget and I won’t think much on it. I’m not throwing this tournament away. I believe that I can shoot 10 under par on this golf course. There’s a nine under round right now (Villegas bogeyed his final hole) and I think I can do that. I’m not packing it in by any means.”
The good news for Spieth is that he responded well to each of his scores in the 80s, shooting 68 and 71 in the final rounds of the Memorial Tournament and Tour Championship respectively.
In contrast, Rory McIlroy was content with his opening-round effort at his first ever appearance at the event.
The world No 3 is this weekend looking to turn good performances into a first victory of the season.
McIlroy has got that bid off to a solid start in in California, carding a four-under-par 67.
The Northern Irishman birdied the first, 7th, 10th, 11th and 17th holes, before recovering from a bogey on the 15th with a birdie on the penultimate hole.
McIlroy told pgatour.com: “It was a solid round of golf. It’s my first time here competitively and I just wanted to get off to a decent start. There were a few opportunities on the back nine, which was the first nine, and I took advantage of a couple of them.
“I took advantage of a few chances I gave myself and 67 is a decent score.”
McIlroy would have been just one shot off the lead had it not been a scorching end to the round from Colombian Villegas.
Villegas struck an imperious 63 and peppered his card with birdies, including four in a row through holes five to eight. However, he blemished his round with a bogey five on the final hole which saw him miss out on the chance to equal the course record.
Chez Reavie, Bubba Watson and Luke List are tied second, with the American trio all ending the day five-under-par.
Scotland’s Martin Laird ended the day three-under and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose was on two-under.