Buddy Phelps no help as Spi­eth strug­gles

New Straits Times - - Sport -

CHARLOTTE: Not even the in­spi­ra­tion of be­ing watched by pal Michael Phelps, the Olympic swim leg­end with a record 23 gold medals, could help Jor­dan Spi­eth solve his putting woes Thurs­day at the PGA Cham­pi­onship.

World num­ber two Spi­eth, seek­ing a ca­reer Grand Slam at age 24 af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish Open last month, strug­gled to a one-over 72 in the open­ing round at Quail Hol­low, five shots be­hind co-lead­ers Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen of Den­mark and Kevin Kis­ner of the United States.

Jor­dan needed 32 putts to nav­i­gate the faster-than-ex­pected greens, which proved for­mi­da­ble de­spite ab­sorb­ing an inch of rain at the start of the week.

“I can’t putt any worse than I did to­day,” Spi­eth said.

“If you told me I was go­ing to hit my driver the way I did to­day, I would have def­i­nitely thought I shot a few un­der par, which was an awe­some score. The score won’t be any higher than it was to­day if I’m driv­ing the ball like to­day.”

The dis­ap­point­ing score came as Phelps, who set a sin­gle Olympics record with eight gold medals at Bei­jing in 2008, walked the course watch­ing Spi­eth launch his bid to be­come only the sixth man to win all four ma­jor ti­tles in his ca­reer, and be the youngest to do it.

“It was great,” Spi­eth said. “He has be­come a good friend and men­tor. It’s pretty awe­some to have a men­tor like that. He texted ear­lier in the week. I think he was here for an out­ing and said he was go­ing out to be out fol­low­ing to­day.

“We’ve had din­ner, talked through a lot of things that I will prob­a­bly just keep to my­self. A lot of men­tal ap­proach and prepa­ra­tion stuff.”

Such things are just what Spi­eth will need if he is to lift the Wana­maker Tro­phy on Sun­day and join Tiger Woods, Jack Nick­laus, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Ho­gan on the ca­reer Slam list.

Spi­eth be­gan on the back nine and made the turn at level par but had three bo­geys in the first six holes on the front, miss­ing 10foot par putts in each case.

A three-footer for birdie at the par-5 sev­enth and a tap-in birdie at eight lifted some of the gloom.

The late rally gave Spi­eth hope his vic­tory dream can still hap­pen, but he knows it puts more pres­sure upon Fri­day’s round.

“I’m still in it but I know to­mor­row’s round be­comes that much more im­por­tant to work my way and stay in it,” Spi­eth said. AFP

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