KAPALUA, Hawaii — Jordan Spieth thought the Plantation Course was a blast to play when he arrived at Kapalua. He had even more fun Friday.
Coming off a sensational rookie season, Spieth opened the new year by never coming close to bogey and making a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 7-under 66. That gave him a share of the lead at the Tournament of Champions with fellow newcomer Michael Thompson, Chris Kirk and Webb Simpson.
Ryan Moore of Puyallup is a stroke back at 67.
“It’s a course that I shouldn’t make a lot of bogeys on if you keep the ball in play and just think your way around the course,” Spieth said. “Ultimately, I did some good preparation and did a lot of hard work the last two or three weeks getting ready for today, and now just happy to be in good position after the first round.”
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The wind off the west coast of Maui was the biggest surprise, shifting direction and speed throughout the opening round on a mostly sunny afternoon. But with an inch of rain overnight, the Plantation Course was soft enough that only two players in the 30-man field of PGA Tour winners failed to break par.
Kirk thought he might be one of them when he first got to this slice of paradise. He had not played since winning the McGladrey Classic two months ago, and his first practice round was a skins game with Matt Kuchar and Scott Brown. Kirk got shut out and figures he shot 80.
When it counted, he was on the money, especially late in the round by closing with five consecutive birdies.
The last two were not easy, especially with the wind blasting into him on the 17th hole, a par 4 that measures 545 yards downhill. He hit a poor tee shot and had to smash a 3-wood into 30 feet for an unlikely birdie. He had to hit 3-wood and 9-iron for his final two shots on 18 to make birdie.
“Some slightly more exciting birdies in the last few holes,” he said.
For the opening round of the year, where players are still trying to shake off some rust, the leaderboard has rarely been this tight.
Jason Dufner had four birdies and an eagle on his front-nine 30, only to settle into a string of pars on the back nine for a 6-under 67. Kevin Streelman bogeyed his last two holes and also was at 67, along with Zach Johnson and Moore.
Adam Scott, coming off a two victories and a runner-up in Australia, and defending champion Dustin Johnson were among those at 70.