Outscoring Jordan Spieth is normally a positive but there was little for Padraig Harrington or Graeme McDowell to smile about after opening with three over 74s in the Valspar Championship in Tampa.
Struggling to find any rhythm of competition, world No 1 Spieth found the breezy conditions and slow greens a challenge and fired a five over 76 to lie three shots outside the projected cut mark at Innisbrook Resort’s testing Copperhead Course. Scores
European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had 30 putts in a six over 77 with his lone birdie coming at the par-three fourth, where he fired a 190-yard approach to four feet.
But while Spieth used the blade just 25 times and single putted six times in his first seven holes (and 11 in all), he still made five bogeys against one birdie before covering Copperhead’s front nine in one over with eight pars and a bogey.
“One of the those days” was how Spieth described a poor day from tee to green that he said he normally resolves in level par.
“It was tough. Wasn't a very good round. I got off to a poor start and I was behind the 8 ball with gusty winds, you know, on a tough golf course."
Spieth added; "I just didn't hit enough greens. I had the opportunities on a few holes today and actually there was a lot of holes where I thought if I hit great shots posing and it's 10, 15 yards off on the distance based on the gust of the wind.
"It was a very tough day."
Spieth is likeable and when asked if he'd accepted that bad days were part of the game, he wondered if there was any other way to take them,
"What good is kicking the door other than hurting my foot and (having to) withdraw?," Spieth said good-naturedly. "I'm kidding. No, I'll be fine."
Keegan Bradley and Ken Duke chiseled out four under par 67s to lead in the clubhouse before they were joined by Charles Howell III, who presented an immaculate card.
That trio led by one strokes at the end of the day from Chesson Hadley but it was a tough day at the office for the three Irishmen in action.
Harrington made three birdies but his errors cost him four bogeys and a double bogey, leaving him just outside the projected cut mark on three over alongside McDowell, who birdied two of his first five holes before the bogeys came along.
Harrington started with a bogey at the 600 yard fifth when a poor tee shot left him facing a 239 yard third shot.
But while he hit almost holed his 148-yard approach to the seventh, tapping in from a few inches to get back to level, he had missed a 12 footer for birdie at the sixth and then missed a six footer for par at the ninth after flying the green.
Out in one over, his day took a turn for the worse when he drove left into deep trouble at the 10th and then went out of bounds with his second, running up a double bogey six to go three over.
A missed four footer for par at the 13th left him on four over but while he birdied the par-five 14th out of sand and the 16th courtesy of a 25 footer, he bogeyed the par-three 13th and 15th, missing a four footer for par at the former before leaving a long range bunker shot in the sand at the latter.
McDowell spoke positively about his game before the event but confessed that Innisbrook was another tough track in a four week run that takes the tour from the Honda and Doral through to Bay Hill next week.
“There’s nothing easy about these golf courses here in Florida,” McDowell said. “I think looking at the par-3s in particular, I look at Honda and Doral and Bay Hill next week, having never played here before and I add this one to the mix as well, there’s golf courses with as tough a set of par-3s as we see throughout the year."
The 2010 US Open winner played the par-threes in one over, dropping a shot at the 215-yard 15th, his sixth, when he left himself a 25 yard bunker shot and came out 11 yards too strong.
Those back to back bogeys were a disappointment as McDowell was two under par after five having begun his round with birdie at the 10th, where he chipped in, and the 14th, where he hit s superb, 30-yard bunker shot to less than two feet.
He missed a six footer for a birdie two at the 215 yard 17th to turn in level par but came home in three over 39, dropping three shots in his last five holes with some average play around the greens.