Spieth grabs first-round lead at Hero World Challenge

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Windemere, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Jordan Spieth fired a first-round, 6- under 66 on Thursday and that has him in sole possession of first place by one shot at the Hero World Challenge.

Spieth, who has one career victory on the PGA Tour at the 2013 John Deere Classic, is playing well right now as he is coming off a win at the Australian Open last week.

"This is a place I'm comfortable," Spieth said. "We played here twice in college and I know the golf course. Felt like I really knew it after one practice round this week."

Defending champion Zach Johnson is right behind Spieth at 5-under 67 along with Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson at Isleworth Golf & Country Club.

Two-time champion Graeme McDowell is tied for sixth with Hideki Matsuyama and Jimmy Walker at 4-under 68, with Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson behind them at minus-3.

Tournament host Tiger Woods, making his first appearance since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in early August, struggled around the greens and he is in last place in the 18-person field at 5-over 77. Woods is four shots back of 17th place and 11 shots behind the leader Spieth.

"I've shot 80s a bunch of times here actually, but usually when it's a cold, north wind and it's about 30 out, but not like this," Woods said with a smile. "Today was weird. I didn't feel like I hit it that bad. My short game was awful. I didn't make anything."

Spieth used a huge stretch on the front nine to vault up the leaderboard. The 21-year-old got started early with a birdie on No. 1 and he followed that up with four straight pars from No. 2.

It was just getting started for Spieth as he then ripped off five straight birdies from six, putting him at minus-6 and atop the leaderboard. Spieth briefly fell back a shot with a bogey on No. 11, but two holes later he responded with his seventh gain on the par-5 13th.

Spieth had a rather interesting finish. After making four straight pars from 14, Spieth headed to the 18th hole looking to hold his lead. His approach shot looked on line, but he hit a sprinkler head in front of the green and his ball ricocheted off the back of the green.

It did not phase Spieth, however, as he chipped on and drained a putt from about 15 feet to grab the first-round lead.

"It was great. I had my wedges working," Spieth said. "Didn't have to work for a few of the birdies on the front nine and then just tried to ride the momentum. It's only Thursday, I knew that on the tee. I felt comfortable, no nerves."

Johnson struggled on the front nine with three straight bogeys from two, but he came back with back-to-back gains on six and seven to get him to 1-over. The back nine is where Johnson cruised as he made six gains in a seven-hole stretch from 11, propelling him into a share of second place after one round.

Stricker, also playing for the first time since the PGA Championship due to a torn hip labrum, was consistent in his round. Stricker went on to make birdies on seven, nine, 13, 14 and 17 during his bogey-free first day.

Much like Johnson, Fowler used a big back nine to end his day. After making the turn at even par with two birdies and two bogeys, Fowler poured in five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from 11. Fowler closed things out with a par at the last to end tied for second.

Stenson, who won the European Tour's season-ending event at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, made a bogey at the second, but then drained birdies on three, seven and nine to make the turn at 2-under. On the back side, Stenson made gains on 10, 11, 13 and 17 to go along with a bogey on 14. He also saved par with a nice putt at the last to remain one shot back.

Woods struggled right from shot No. 1 as his tee shot at the first rolled all the way through the fairway and out of bounds. He had to settle for bogey. Woods made it two straight bogeys when he dropped a shot on No. 2.

Following four straight pars from three, Woods tripped to his third bogey on No. 7, putting him at 3-over. Woods then made a mess of the par-4 eighth, where he chunked a chip shot and wound up making double-bogey. It was not the last poor chip shot Woods had on the day.

Making the turn at 5-over. Woods' best shot of the day came on 12 when his approach on the par-4 spun back and just grazed the edge of the hole. Woods tapped in for his first and only birdie of the day.

Woods landed his second shot on the par-5 13th on the green, but it hit a slope and rolled off the side. He then proceeded to chunk two consecutive chip shots before finally getting his ball onto the green before making his bogey putt.

Five straight pars closed out Woods' first round, but not before another chunked chip shot on 17 may have prevented him from making another birdie.

"It certainly is surprising that I could chip that poorly," Woods said. "Just made too many mistakes and they're all mainly around the green."

NOTES: Woods played in just eight events last season, withdrawing from two of them due to a back injury ... Spieth won by six shots at last week's Australian Open ... Johnson defeated Woods in a playoff at this event last year ... Woods has won this event five times ... McDowell's victories here came in 2010 and 2012.