Spieth delights in clinical start


A satisfied Jordan Spieth said he felt like he "stole a few" shots after beginning his Masters defence in style with a 66 on Thursday.

Doubts had been expressed regarding Spieth's form in the lead-up to the year's first major, but a return to Augusta brought out the world number two's clinical best.

Having begun last year's stunning wire-to-wire triumph with a 64, Spieth overcame swirling winds on this occasion to shoot 66 and lead by two strokes from Danny Lee and Shane Lowry.

Three birdies on each nine helped the 22-year-old to the top of the leaderboard, but just as important were impressive par saves on the 11th and 16th as Spieth offered a reprisal of the excellent putting display he produced 12 months ago.

"I would have signed for two-under today and not even played the round, knowing the conditions that were coming up," said Spieth, who is looking to become only the fourth player to defend the Masters.

"[I] got a lot out of the round with what I felt like was kind of average-ish ball-striking. Just scored the ball extremely well, which is something I've been struggling with this season.

"I feel like my game's been trending in the right direction, I just haven't gotten scores out of how I felt I'd been playing. That normally just comes down to putting.

"I certainly made a lot of putts today. If I can kind of straighten things out with the iron play, hopefully we'll be in business.  But, yeah, I am extremely pleased with that round. I felt like we stole a few."

Discussing his comfort level at Augusta, where he has yet to complete an over-par round, Spieth added: "I enjoy this tournament more than anywhere else. It's easy for us [himself and caddie Michael Greller].

"We don't have any or many distractions in our preparation, and we enjoy that you're able to kind of feel like you get enough done and you have enough time to do everything, and I think that's useful when we start on the first hole."

Spieth also prompted laughter when suggesting his performances this season have been somewhat harshly judged.

The Texan said: "I'm still trying to figure out why people think I've been struggling. We've finished in the top 20 [in] eight out of the last nine events, what am I supposed to do?

"I feel great about the way things have been. The toughest part is how to answer on why you're not finishing first every time. We're fine. Everything's been good.

"I told everyone the last two weeks that it's coming around, we're putting in the right work.  We're just waiting for the scores and they are finally coming out."