Seamus Power. SIPA USA/PA Images
Texas hold 'em

Power and Harrington sitting pretty after first round at Byron Nelson

Jordan Spieth fired a bogey-free nine-under par 63 to share the lead.

SEAMUS POWER AND Pádraig Harrington are in the mix after encouraging first rounds at the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas.

Power chipped in from 30 feet on the 18th to add an eagle to his bogey-free card and finish the day on 65, just two shots off joint leaders JJ Spaun and Jordan Spieth. 

Harrington is one shot further back, finishing on six-under for the day. 

Like the Ryder Cup captain and Waterford native Power, Spieth fired a bogey-free round – he hit a nine-under par 63.

The three-time major winner sank a 55-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th at TPC Craig Ranch to match Spaun atop the leaderboard after 18 holes at McKinney.

“It broke left to right at the beginning and the rest of it was straight,” Spieth said of his final shot. “I’m just trying to get to tap-in and cap off a good day, and I kind of started leaning because I thought it was going to miss left and it just kind of fell in the left side of the hole.”

It was a sizzling start for the 27-year-old Dallas native, who will try to complete a career Grand Slam next week by winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Spieth snapped a four-year win drought dating back to the 2017 British Open by capturing the Texas Open last month, winning the week before the Masters, where he shared third.

Spectators were backing Spieth and unleashed a massive roar when he dropped the final putt.

“I think late in the round they got some swing juice in them, and that certainly had something to do with it,” Spieth said.

“The roar was pretty electric. I mean, it’s just fun. It’s just awesome feeling the support.

“We’re not necessarily doing it for the roars, but it’s a cool bonus at the end when it caps off a round like that.”

Spaun, seeking his first PGA title, began on the back nine and sank nine birdies, none of them from beyond just over six feet.

“Played really solid. Took advantage of the soft conditions,” Spaun said. “You try to attack when you can. You kind of swing away. I just stayed in the moment, made some good putts, and eventually I’m signing for 9-under.”

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello shared third on 64 with Americans Aaron Wise, Doc Redman and Joseph Bramlett.

A pack on 65 included England’s Luke Donald, Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Power and South African Charl Schwartzel.

Spieth sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the opening hole, went on to birdie four of the first six holes and made another at the par-5 ninth from just outside six weeks.

He tapped in or birdie at the par-5 12th, sank a six-footer to birdie 13 and made four pars before his closing eagle.

“I could certainly look back and say I missed a couple pretty easy putts, but I also made the one on 18,” said Spieth, who was nervous at the first tee.

“I had nerves on number one like it was the first shot of the season. I didn’t practice for three weeks straight, which is very unusual. Normally two days off is the most during a season, so I was pretty nervous getting started.

“To make the birdie there was kind of cool. It’s almost like the nerves that you feel first shot at a major, Ryder Cup, and just to make a birdie just calmly, I thought that gave me a lot of confidence to start out.”

- First round walking -

Spieth was out for four weeks after the Masters, half of the time after contracting Covid-19.

“First round walking since the Masters,” Spieth said. “I noticed it in my legs. It’s just one of those things.

“For me I noticed it in my swings coming down the stretch. Just got lazy in my lower body. On 18 I just said, This is the last one you got to do today. Let’s give it everything you got, and roasted a 3-wood and capped it off with the putt.”

© – AFP, 2021

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