Jordan Spieth didn’t look like a player who hasn’t played in a month on Thursday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, taking a share of the first-round lead with a 63.
It’s usually good to return home, especially for Jordan Spieth on Thursday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Playing just 30 miles from his Dallas home, Spieth opened the tournament with a first-round 63 that included seven birdies, a closing eagle, and no bogeys. He shares the 18-hole lead with J.J. Spaun at nine-under.
Spieth has a special affinity for this tournament and this area. He grew up here. He made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur at the Byron Nelson in 2010, where he finished 16th. That’s still his best result in nine previous appearances.
But he’s never enjoyed a day here as he did on Thursday. He began the round, his first since the Masters four weeks ago, with a birdie. He made four more birdies before making the turn. Five-under and in clear control of his game and TPC Craig Ranch, he went to the 12th and had his best shot of the round.
After driving his tee shot to the right, Spieth was left with 244 yards to the hole and a big puff of grass in front of the ball. He had two options: play it safe and leave himself a wedge into the par-five, or go aggressive and take aim at the green. He debated it with caddie Michael Greller for more than a minute before deciding, “It’s on me,” and taking out a hybrid.
He struck the shot cleanly, the ball landing just short of the green, rolling past the hole, catching the backstop, and settling just nine feet away for an eagle opportunity. While he missed the putt, Spieth still tapped in for an easy birdie, and also birdied the 13th.
“I committed and said, What do I have to lose? Let’s get this thing up there near the green and make birdie,” he said following his round. “It was a bonus to be the right distance and have inside 12 feet for eagle.”
At the 18th, he sent his hometown fans into a frenzy by holing a 55-foot eagle over a big ridge in the green on the par-five. His nine-under 63 was his lowest score in 34 career rounds at the Byron Nelson.
It was another sign that the old Spieth, the one who had 11 wins on the PGA Tour, three majors, and reached No. 1 in the world before the age of 24, is back. In eight tournaments since February, Spieth has six top-10s, including a victory at the Valero Texas Open in early April, his first win in nearly four years.
Spieth overcoming positive covid test
But then he had to sit and wait, his solid run put on hold. After finishing tied for third at the Masters, Spieth revealed this week he tested positive for covid-19 and couldn’t play for three weeks. Thursday was just the fourth round he’s played in the last month. He felt the fatigue in his legs, particularly on the back-nine, that a long layoff brings and the early jitters from so much waiting.
“Really started on No. 1. I had nerves on No. 1 like it’s the first shot of the season,” he said. “I didn’t practice for three weeks straight, which is very unusual. Normally two days off is the most during a season, and then just starting back into it.”
“So I was pretty nervous on the first tee and getting started. 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 today.”
Sitting in his room for three weeks didn’t take away any of his game. And with the PGA Championship, the only major he’s never won, just a week away, he’s found the perfect opportunity to knock off a little rust.