Fairways And Roughs Title

Putting woes plague DJ, Spieth in opening round

By PGA Tour News
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ERIN, Wis. – Jordan Spieth spent the afternoon following his first round at Erin Hills on the practice green. He expected to see defending champ Dustin Johnson there too. “We might have a pillow fight putting contest, just to see if we can spark anything,” Spieth joked. It was one of the rare times he was able to crack a smile Thursday about his putting. The two most recent U.S. Open winners failed to take advantage of the favorable morning scoring conditions at Erin Hills, each suffering from an uncooperative putter. Playing in the same group, Spieth shot a 1-over 73 while Johnson posted a 3-over 75. They combined for just two birdies; the third member, Martin Kaymer, had four birdies in shooting the group’s low round, an even-par 72. “I’m surprised Martin could make a couple of them given he was watching me and DJ the whole day,” said Spieth, who won in 2015 at Chambers Bay – which, like Erin Hills, was a first-time U.S. Open venue. Making the score even more frustrating for Spieth was that his tee-to-green play was spectacular. He hit 13 of 14 fairways on Erin Hills’ generous wide driving zones and hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation. “Best driving round that I’ve had maybe in my life,” Spieth said. But his putting has been an issue recently. He changed putters at his hometown event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, experimenting with a mallet-style putter. He went back to his old putter the next week and played well in his defense at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial. The tie for second was his best result since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Numbers-wise, though, he’s not at the level he was two years ago. He entered this week ranked 40th in Strokes Gained: Putting. He was second the previous season and ninth in 2015 when he won five events and claimed the FedExCup title. On Thursday, he had 15 legitimate looks for birdies but could convert only one of those attempts. Spieth missed all eight of his attempts between 10-20 feet, and missed another two inside 10 feet. The hole shrunk as the misses piled up. “It just looked smaller, just looked like I was putting half-a-cup,” Spieth said “Sometimes it looks like I’m putting to two cups.” Johnson encountered a few more difficulties tee-to-green that Spieth (11 of 18 greens, 9 of 14 fairways), and he failed to birdie any of the par-5s on a course that played to a U.S. Open-record 7,845 yards on Thursday. He found trouble in the tall fescue at the par-5 14th, then compounded the problem with a 3-putt for a double bogey. It was one of three 3-putts he suffered in the round. Like Spieth, he failed to convert any of his putts from 10-20 feet and also missed three of six putts from 5-10 feet. “If I don’t three-putt, I shoot even,” Johnson said. “But if I just make one or two of the good looks I have, it’s a couple under. I didn’t hit it great, but I hit it good enough to shoot a good score. … “I didn’t play that bad. I just didn’t putt very good. It wasn’t that I was hitting bad putts. My speed was just a little off.” Johnson surely didn’t expect to end his first round 10 strokes off the lead and having to scramble on Friday to make the cut. Spieth didn’t expect to shoot over par on a great ball-striking day. But that’s where they are. The fix is fairly simple. “I can’t change anything that I was doing,” Spieth said. “If I get that many looks, I normally shoot 8-under par typically. So there’s nothing for me to change other than just dial things up on the greens.” Said Johnson: “I hit enough fairways to shoot a good score. But I’ve definitely got to roll it better. I’m swinging good, everything feels good – I just need to make more putts here.”

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