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USA Today Sports Media Group
Adam Schupak

Spieth dazzles, Tom Kim’s fashion statement and more from FedEx St. Jude Championship

Jordan Spieth’s first tournament round as a 30-year-old was a vintage performance.

Spieth’s irons were dialed in, his putter was hot and he used his trademark imagination when needed, including drawing up a beauty in his mind at the par-5 16th en route to a chip-in eagle. It all added up to a stellar bogey-free 7-under 63 at TPC Southwind in Memphis on Thursday, his lowest first-round score of his season and a one-stroke lead over Tom Kim at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

The 30-year-old Texan, who entered the kickoff of the PGA Tour’s three-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs in 31st place, missed reaching the 16th green in two shots.

“Right of that green is normally dead,” he said.

Not for short-game wizard like Spieth. From 43 feet away from the hole, Spieth closed his stance and the face of his 60-degree wedge and one-hopped a pitch into a ridge that jumped on to the green and rolled right into the hole for eagle to improve to 7 under for the day.

“I hit that shot three or four times to that pin on Tuesday,” he said. “I looked to see if it was right on line, and then as it was kind of moving in, it was cool…it’s a cool feeling.”

Spieth notched six top 10s, including losing a playoff at the RBC Heritage, but was winless during the regular season. On Thursday, Spieth made birdie on three of his first five holes, tacked on another at 11 and before his eagle heroics added another birdie at 15.

Heavy overnight rain delayed the start of play and forced the use of preferred lies in the opening round. Soft conditions made the course gettable and Spieth took advantage by hitting 15 of 18 greens. His putter took care of the rest.

“This is the best I’ve seen him putt in some time,” analyst Colt Knost said on Golf Channel.

Spieth noted that he had been working on his putting, which held him back at the British Open last month, early in the morning before the Dallas heat became unbearable. Spieth sank a couple of clutch par putts at Nos. 12 and 17 to keep his card clean.

“They feel better than the birdie putts,” he said. “They really do.”

Here are four more things to know from the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

Tom Kim's fashion statement

Tom Kim reacts after making a putt to save a bogey on the seventh hole during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Kim, 21 and the youngest player in the field, was unable to defend his title last week at the Wyndham Championship after injuring his ankle during the British Open. Kim stepped off a patio at his rental home, resulting in a grade-1 tear in his ankle.

“It’s been boring,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you.”

The rest and rehab seem to have worked as Kim, who finished T-2 at Royal Liverpool, picked up right where he left off and opened the FedEx St. Jude Championship with a 6-under 64, one shot off the lead and his lowest first-round score in 41 career starts on Tour.

Despite his flashy play, Kim’s outfit drew more attention. Kim rolled up the bottoms of his light khaki pants on a wet, muddy day so they reached just below the kneecaps, somewhere between capris and joggers.

“It was just, I didn’t want to get myself dirty. Just don’t like it. I’ve had a really bad week once this year (at Oak Hill), so just trying to stay away from it really,” he said. “It was just kind of how I did it back in the old days. I didn’t have unlimited pants, so I had to make sure I was able to use those pants for a really long time, so I had to make sure they stayed really clean.

“A lot of people seemed to have a lot of laughs on it, but I just thought it was pretty convenient. I chose the wrong color, obviously, for the day, but my caddie Joe (Skovron) actually said he doesn’t really care what I do as long as I make birdies and eagles, so it kind of worked.”

Collin Morikawa was among the players that noticed Kim’s distinctive look. “I saw what he was doing,” he said. “Interesting style choice.”

Kim said he likely would do the same with his pants on Friday if the wet conditions continue, if only to avoid making a mess of them.

But this he knew: “Definitely not white tomorrow,” he said. “That’s for sure.”

FedEx Cup champ bummed with 67

Rory McIlroy putts the ball on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2023 FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis. (Photo: Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal)

Rory McIlroy overcame a sluggish start to shoot 3-under 67 on Thursday. But that didn’t mean he was pleased with his result.

“Sort of walking off the course disappointed with 3 under. I felt on another day when I have been on song a little bit more, especially with the putter, it could have been a 63 or a 64,” he said.

Speaking of the putter, McIlroy switched to a Scotty Cameron Phantom mallet that he pulled from his garage. He gave it a passing grade and said it earned at least another round in his bag.

“I’m just sort of trying to get a little more consistency in it. I like the feel of it. It’s a real solid feel. My speed is good with it. It’s just a matter of getting the thing on line,” he said.

But he was proud of the way he busted driver off the tee.

“I don’t know if I can remember a round where I’ve driven it that well, at least in recent memory,” he said. “I drove it really well today and gave myself so many looks from the fairway.”

The highlight of McIlroy’s round was an eagle at the par-5 16th when he drilled an iron from 205 yards to inside 2 feet.

“You know, it was a slow start, and then the eagle on 16 sort of got me going,” he said. “I played solid. I just feel like I left a few out there.”

McIlroy, who is bidding for a record fourth FedEx Cup title, started the week in third and is projected to drop to fifth after the first round.

Scheffler's patient hands

PGA Tour player Scottie Scheffler leans back while watching his shot on the twelfth hole during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday, August 10, 2023.

Scottie Scheffler’s patience was tested early after he flared his tee shot at the par-3 14th hole into the water and made a double bogey.

“I just hit a terrible shot,” he said. “It’s frustrating obviously when you see everybody is making birdies and you’re 2-over through four or five holes.”

In fact, Scheffler didn’t make his first birdie until 16 (he started on the back nine) but once he broke the seal he made six in all including three in a row from Nos. 2-4.

Scheffler started the week at No. 2 in the FedEx Cup and is projected to remain there after the first day of the playoffs.

Rahm's two-way miss

PGA Tour player Jon Rahm watches his shot from the fairway on the tenth hole during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday, August 10, 2023.

Jon Rahm went from first to almost worst — at least for one round.

The leader entering the playoffs, Rahm posted a 3-over 73, T-65, and beat just three golfers.

It was a trying day for the big Spaniard. He battled a two-way miss off the tee and lost more than three strokes off the tee to the field, ranking 69th of 70 players in the field. Rahm drove left into a penalty area on 16 leading to a bogey, into the water on 18 and a double bogey and into a bush at the second, which resulted in another bogey. But he walked off No. 9 fuming over a 3-putt bogey from 26 feet.

Rahm opened with an over-par score in back-to-back starts (74 at the British Open; he hadn’t opened with an over-par score in back-to-back starts on Tour since 2018: FedEx St. Jude Championship (75/MC), Dell Technologies Championship (73/T43).

With a field of 70, there’s no cut this week so perhaps Rahm can battle back over the next three days. He can also take solace in knowing that despite his poor round, he’s still projected to retain the lead in the FedEx Cup.

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