World number one Jordan Spieth drew enthusiastic galleries to the opening round of the SMBC Singapore Open on Thursday and showed his class with a bogey-free 67 to sit on the shoulder of surprise clubhouse leader Keith Horne of South Africa.
The American superstar is a shot adrift of Horne who carried his form from the recent South African Open into the US$1 million tournament to shoot 66.
Spieth’s 67 was matched by Korea’s An Byeonghun, the European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2015.
Play was suspended twice during Thursday’s opening round because of lightning with American Berry Henson tied for the lead at five-under with one hole left when the players were called off for the day.
The first round will restart at 7.30am on Friday morning with 57 players still to complete 18 holes.
Horne, who finished tied fourth in his home Open earlier this month, carded seven birdies and two bogeys at a blisteringly hot Sentosa Golf Club.
“I’m really happy with my result today as I haven’t played here for a couple of years. But whenever I do come over here, I generally play well,” said the 44 year old, who is still searching for his maiden victory on the Asian Tour.
“I putted great today which was important. I put a new driver in the bag today and I hit it so far and straight and that made a huge difference.”
Spieth bemoaned a lack of sharpness in his approach play which left him long putts on the Serapong Course’s massive greens.
“Given some of the positions I was in off the tee it was a little frustrating,” he said.
“From there I could not quite get it on the right tier of the green or the right distance. My distance control was just off trying to judge the wind, humidity and the heat. We just struggled a bit with that.
“I didn’t get many looks (at putts for birdie). I didn’t get the ball inside 15 feet. I had plenty of opportunities to (do that).”
Spieth started with a bang, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt at his first hole (the 10th), and then took advantage of the par-fives by picking up further strokes at the 18th, fourth and seventh.
Although his radar was not fully attuned on approach shots, he was happy with his long putting.
“No three putts and I had eight or nine putts over 30 feet. Typically I don’t use a practice stroke when I putt unless I’m trying to coast it near the hole and I had to do that on eight or nine of the greens,” he commented.
“So when that is happening I know I’m not hitting it close enough. Still, the speed was great and I didn’t lose any shots.”
Spieth was unfazed by the sweltering hot conditions at Sentosa Golf Club.
“It’s fine. It’s definitely hot, definitely humid, no doubt about that, but it’s not overbearing, you have just got to drink enough water. There were times in the day where I said I haven’t drank water for a hole or two and you could kind of feel it when you don’t, so you have just got to keep on drinking,” he said.
The Serapong Course recently took 58th spot on Golf Digest’s 100 Best Golf Course of the World list and Spieth said that it had lived up to its reputation.
“It met the expectations, that not only I had coming in, but what everybody else had told me,” said the Masters and US Open champion.
“My expectations were high coming in, considering how highly people have spoken of this golf course. I was curious about where pins would be and they did a great job of putting them where grain changes on the green which makes it tricky, making it look like it’s not that hard. It played very similar to a pretty challenging PGA Tour event.”
An was happy with all departments of his game.
“It was good overall,” said the world number 26, who was also error free. “Putted great, hit great, drove the ball pretty well.
“I definitely didn’t leave any putts out there that’s for sure. I made all the putts I had to make. I didn’t really make any stupid mistakes today with my shots.”
Henson made a late charge with three straight birdies from the fourth hole on his back nine (after starting at the 10th). He had picked up shots at the 13th, 16th and 18th with his only blemish coming at the third hole (his 12th).
Thailand’s Namchok Tantipokhakul is one off the lead with four holes to play.