Jordan Spieth defended himself against an internet “troll” following his opening 76 in the Valspar Championship - and found an ally in one of his biggest rivals.
Spieth said earlier this year that he had “gone away” from looking at comments on social media, but he could not resist responding to an Instagram user on Thursday night who wrote: “IF HIS PUTTER IS NOT WORKING, HES GARBAGE. Every other aspect of his game is very average.”
The world No 1, who is the defending champion at Innisbrook, replied: “Couldn’t be further from the truth troll. Go do research before hating.”
Spieth also took objection to a post on the PGA Tour’s official Twitter account which had picked out a quote from his post-round interview in which the 22-year-old was asked if he could accept having an occasional off day.
“What good is kicking the door other than hurting my foot and (having to) withdraw?” Spieth joked at the time, although he was less happy to see the quote used in isolation.
“Seriously? That’s the quote you’re going to use out of that article?” he wrote on his own Twitter account.
Both the PGA Tour and Spieth have since deleted their tweets, but world No 2 Rory McIlroy was happy to leave up his response to a collection of some of the social media reaction to Spieth’s round.
“No, he’s not TW (Tiger Woods), he’s not slumping and he’s not done. He’s a double major winning 22 year old. He’ll be just fine!!” McIlroy wrote.
Meanwhile, Charles Howell III played a bogey-free round as he shot a four-under-par 67 to hold a share of the lead in Innisbrook.
Keegan Bradley and Ken Duke are tied with Howell after the opening round, one shot clear of Chesson Hadley.
“I was impressed I got away with no bogeys,” Howell told reporters. “It was nice to get off to a good start here on a place like this. I’m not sure what the rest of the week will hold, but to actually play a nice round on a tough golf course is good for my confidence. Of course.”
Charley Hoffman, Greg Yates and Chez Reavie lie two back of the leading trio on a leaderboard dominated by Americans.
Danny Willett is one of 17 players four off the pace on one under while Martin Laird and Russell Knox signed for one-over and four-over respectively.
Laird is making his 200th PGA Tour appearance in the event while Knox is clocking up his 100th on the US circuit.