SINGAPORE (Reuters) – World number one Jordan Spieth grabbed a share of the early clubhouse lead at the Singapore Open on Thursday but the American, missing his regular caddie, was left frustrated by some inaccurate approach play.
Agent and manager Jay Danzi stepped up to carry the bag on a stifling first morning at the Sentosa Golf Club, with regular caddie Michael Greller taking a rare week off because of injury.
The headline act of an otherwise low-key event, Spieth, followed by a few hundred spectators taking advantage of free entry on Thursday, said his bogey-free four-under-par round of 67 which left him level with South Korean world number 26 An Byeong-hun, should have been better.
“For the positions I was in off the tee it was a little frustrating,” he told reporters, wiping away sweat after finishing his round at the height of the mid-day sun.
“From there I couldn’t quite get it on the right tier (of the green) or right distance, my distance control was just off trying to judge the wind, humidity and the heat. And so we just struggled a bit with that.
“I didn’t get many looks (for birdie), I didn’t get the ball inside 15-feet. I had plenty of opportunities to.”
Greller, who left his job as sixth grade teacher in the U.S. to work with Spieth, aided the 22-year-old’s U.S. Masters and U.S. Open title wins last year and surge to the top of the world rankings.
Spieth, though, refused to bemoan his absence and credited Danzi’s work at the Asian Tour season opening event, the second time he has covered for Greller after a tournament in Japan in 2014.
“I thought Jay stepped in extremely well. It’s a tough place to caddie when you are not used to carrying the bag, what with the weather, but he took it like a champ,” the Texan said.
“We have some rounds under our belt and we have played together a lot so its an easy one-week replacement while Michael is getting healthy.”
The Spieth-Danzi team begun brightly on Thursday with a birdie three at his first – the 10th – but chances of picking up further shots were limited thereafter by his iron play.
Spieth said he had struggled with his putting last week after a tied fifth finish at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday, but was happier with short stick efforts on Sentosa’s large undulating greens.
Three two-putt birdies on the par fives, 18, four and seven, sent him to the summit of the $1 million event.
“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,” Spieth said.
“So when that is happening I know I’m not hitting it close enough. Still, the speed is great, I didn’t lose any shots.”
(By Patrick Johnston, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)