Augusta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Jordan Spieth carded his lowest round in a major by three strokes on Thursday and took a 3-shot lead at the 79th Masters.
Spieth fired an 8-under 64 to grab the first-round lead for the third time in his PGA Tour career. The 64 bested his previous low round in a major, a 67 in the third round last year at the Open Championship.
The 64 was Spieth's fifth round in the 60s in nine major championship starts.
"Certainly played well. I was excited with how I struck the ball. Kept the ball on the putting surface and was able to give myself some looks early and get off to a good start, which is sometimes the hardest part of this tournament," Spieth stated. "To have it keep on going, have a couple kind of go my way there in the middle of the round, and bring it up to a really good number, yeah, I'm excited about the start."
The 21-year-old Texan entered the season's first major as hot as any player. Spieth has finished first, second and tied for second in his last three starts.
Justin Rose and Charley Hoffman were the early leaders at 5-under 67. They were joined in second place by two-time runner-up Ernie Els and 2011 runner-up Jason Day.
Russell Henley posted a 4-under 68 and shares sixth place with Sergio Garcia. Webb Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic, carded a 3-under 69. He was joined there by Bill Haas, Paul Casey and Ryan Palmer.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy notched three birdies and two bogeys in an opening- round 71. He dropped to plus-1 with a bogey at the 11th, but birdied 13 and 15 to get into red figures for the first time. He parred out to end there.
The reigning Open Champion and PGA Championship winner would complete the career grand slam with a victory this week.
"It was nice to get out there and finally play," said McIlroy of the build up since winning the PGA last August. "Felt like it was a solid start, it could have been better, but it could have been worse as well. Anything under-par today is a decent score."
McIlroy and defending champion Bubba Watson were joined at minus-1 by among others 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley and 65-year-old Tom Watson.
Tiger Woods completed just his third round of the year after he missed the cut in Phoenix and withdrew during the first round at Torrey Pines. The four-time Masters champion mixed three birdies and four bogeys in a round of 1-over 73.
"It was a good day. I felt good out there. Made probably two dumb mistakes out there, but other than that, the only thing I really struggled with was the pace of the greens. I couldn't believe how slow they were," Woods said.
Spieth, who is the youngest-ever 18-hole leader, got on the board with an 8- foot birdie effort on the par-5 second. He came back two holes later with a 14-footer for birdie.
After three pars in a row, Spieth reached the par-5 eighth in two and 2-putted for birdie from just off the green. He also birdied the ninth to make the turn at minus-4, where he was one off the lead.
Spieth continued his hot play with a 12-footer for birdie on No. 10. That was his third consecutive birdie. He parred the 11th before kicking off another hot stretch with a 7-foot birdie effort at the 12th.
The 21-year-old birdied the 13th and 14th, both from inside four feet, to move to 8-under. Spieth's lone mistake came at the par-5 15th. He knocked his second over the green. His chip came up short and Spieth needed three more to get down for his first and only bogey of the day.
"When I was there on 15, I was in between clubs and I knew if I could birdie there and get one more in I could get to 10 (under) on the day, and I've never shot 10-under in a professional round, and obviously here that would be pretty special," Spieth said when asked if he had a score in mind at any point in his round.
"Unfortunately, I took the wrong club there and hit it over the green, made bogey there. I saw the scoreboard (on 15) and maybe tried to push it a little bit."
Spieth ran home a 20-footer for birdie at the last to post 64.
Els and Day could have been closer if not for late bogeys. Els converted back- to-back birdies at two and three. He atoned for a bogey at the seventh with birdie on No. 8.
The four-time major champion birdied 10 and 13 to move to 4-under. Els stuffed his second at the 15th within six feet and he rolled that in for eagle to jump to 6-under. Els 3-putted for bogey at 18 to slide into a share second.
Day opened with seven consecutive pars and followed with birdies at eight and nine. He missed the 11th green with his approach, then chipped to six feet. Day missed his par putt to dip to minus-1, but he caught fire thanks to a 12- foot birdie effort on No. 12.
The Australian birdied each of the next four holes, all from inside nine feet. Day bogeyed 17 after finding trees off the tee and he parred No. 18 for a 67.
Rose carded three birdies in a 4-hole span from the third. After three pars in a row, he traded a birdie at 10 for a bogey at 11. At the par-5 13th, Rose 2- putted for birdie to move back to minus-4. He again 2-putted for birdie on the 15th to join Hoffman at 5-under. Rose holed a clutch 8-foot par save on 16 and parred the final two holes.
Hoffman birdied the second and third, but tripped to a bogey at No. 4. He came right back with a birdie at five. Hoffman parred five in a row from the sixth.
The three-time PGA Tour winner 3-putted for bogey at the 11th to dip back to minus-1. After three pars in a row, He flew up the leaderboard. Hoffman eagled the 15th from eight feet out to jump to 3-under and closed with birdies at 16 and 18.
Dustin Johnson rallied for a 2-under 70. He ended alongside three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, FedExCup champion Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed and Par 3 contest winner Kevin Streelman in 12th place.
NOTES: Spieth's 64 was his lowest round at the Masters by six strokes, and was the lowest opening round since Greg Norman in 1996 ... Spieth hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation ... There were seven eagles in the first round and they were carded by Hoffman, 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel, Danny Willett, Mickelson, Ben Martin, Matt Kuchar and Els ... Reigning U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer struggled to a 4-over 76.