Bubba Watson Shares PGA Tour Playoff Lead as Spieth Fires 74

  • Watson is 5 under par, with seven birdies and two bogeys
  • Spieth has his worst round of the year in relation to par

Bubba Watson holds a share of the first-round lead at golf’s Barclays tournament, the first event in the PGA Tour’s playoff series. Jordan Spieth is nine strokes back after a 4-over-par 74 that was the worst round of the year for the world’s No. 1-ranked player.

“It was a very off day,” said Spieth, the reigning Masters Tournament and U.S. Open winner who has had top-10 finishes in his past six starts. “A little bit of rust with wedges combined with some poor decision-making and it just came out of nowhere.”

Watson, playing in a group Thursday with Spieth and PGA Championship winner Jason Day, made seven birdies over his first 13 holes at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. He had two bogeys over his final four holes to shoot a 65 that leaves him tied with Tony Finau, Spencer Levin and Camilo Villegas at 5 under par.

Danny Lee, Jason Dufner, Cameron Tringale, Russell Knox, Bryce Molder and Paul Casey shot rounds of 66 and are one shot behind. Another eight players are tied at 3 under, while Day, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk are among those three shots off the lead.

Spieth, the No. 1 player in both the world and FedExCup rankings, was 6 over for his final nine holes to finish with his worst score in relation to par since a 10-over 80 in the third round of last year’s Tour Championship. Spieth had three previous rounds of 75 this year, though all were on par-72 courses, the last coming at the Players Championship in May.

“I would argue that this was -- after the tee shots -- the worst round I’ve played in years,” said Spieth, who hit 11 of 14 fairways off the tee. 

Spieth’s group drew the biggest gallery of fans at Plainfield and the 22-year-old Texan started his round with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th hole. After playing the first nine holes in 2 under, he made back-to-back bogeys on the first and second holes. Spieth then took a double-bogey on the par-3 third after hitting his tee shot into a pond.

Spieth, who leads the PGA Tour in the fewest putts per round this season, missed three par putts of eight feet or less on his second nine. He missed a putt of just over two feet on the par-4 second hole and then closed his round with a bogey after missing a five-foot par putt on No. 9. 

“I’ll do what I’ve done best, bounce back,” Spieth said. “I’m not a big fan of the course. It doesn’t fit me well particularly, but I’ve also won on courses that I didn’t think fit me very well. I know I can still shoot a low round if I hit the shots that I need to hit. Hopefully I’ll see a few more putts go in.”

The Barclays field includes 121 of the top 125 players in the season-long FedExCup rankings, with Rory McIlroy the highest-ranked player not in the field this week. McIlroy is No. 2 in the world behind Spieth and ninth in the playoff point standings.

After Plainfield, the top 100 in the FedExCup rankings qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. The field is then cut to 70 for the third playoff event: the BMW Championship near Chicago. The top 30 players following the BMW Championship advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where a $10 million bonus will be awarded.

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