Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Mashujaa day: Kenyatta and Odinga call for peace before election rerun

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Kurdish referendum a ‘colossal mistake’, says son of late president Talabani

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

The new 30s club: NZ's Jacinda Ardern joins list of maverick leaders

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Raqqa, Kirkuk, Xi Jinping

Read more

REPORTERS

The Dictator's Games: A rare look inside Turkmenistan

Read more

#TECH 24

Teaching maths with holograms

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Is China exporting its pollution?

Read more

#THE 51%

Are female empowerment adverts actually good for the cause?

Read more

FOCUS

The mixed legacy of 'Abenomics' in Japan

Read more

Not even Michael Phelps could ease Spieth putting woes

© Getty/AFP / by Jim SLATER | Swimmer Michael Phelps and his wife Nicole Johnson look on during the first round of the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club on August 10, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina

CHARLOTTE (AFP) - 

Not even the inspiration of being watched by pal Michael Phelps, the Olympic swim legend with a record 23 gold medals, could help Jordan Spieth solve his putting woes Thursday at the PGA Championship.

World number two Spieth, seeking a career Grand Slam at age 24 after winning the British Open last month, struggled to a one-over 72 in the opening round at Quail Hollow, five shots behind Danish leader Thorbjorn Olesen.

Jordan needed 32 putts to navigate the faster-than-expected greens, which proved formidable despite absorbing an inch of rain at the start of the week.

"I can't putt any worse than I did today," Spieth said. "If you told me I was going to hit my driver the way I did today, I would have definitely thought I shot a few under par, which was an awesome score.

"The score won't be any higher than it was today if I'm driving the ball like today."

The disappointing score came as Phelps, who set a single Olympics record with eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008, walked the course watching Spieth launch his bid to become only the sixth man to win all four major titles in his career, and be the youngest to do it.

"It was great," Spieth said. "He has become a good friend and mentor. It's pretty awesome to have a mentor like that. He texted earlier in the week. I think he was here for an outing and said he was going out to be out following today.

"We've had dinner, talked through a lot of things that I will probably just keep to myself. A lot of mental approach and preparation stuff."

Such things are just what Spieth will need if he is to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday and join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan on the career Slam list.

"When I had the chances that I had and I just couldn't get the ball to go in on the greens, that is when I get the most frustrated I can get out there," Spieth said.

"I don't think I missed any short putts. I just had really poor speed on my really long ones. Everything else was fine. It was just the putter."

Spieth began on the back nine and made the turn at level par but had three bogeys in the first six holes on the front, missing 10-foot par putts in each case.

A three-footer for birdie at the par-5 seventh and a tap-in birdie at eight lifted some of the gloom.

"If I were to finish par, par, par, I would have thrown myself out of the tournament," Spieth said. "I had three looks (at birdies) and almost got back all the way to even.

"I needed those from short range because it seemed like the lid was on today. I burned a lot of edges. Some were good putts, some weren't. Overall that's what I'm going to work on is hitting some more putts."

The late rally gave Spieth hope his victory dream can still happen, but he knows it puts more pressure upon Friday's round.

"I'm still in it but I know tomorrow's round becomes that much more important to work my way and stay in it," Spieth said.

"I've got to make up ground. If I'm five back at the start of the day, I've got to be less than five back after Friday to really feel like I can play the way this golf course needs to be played and still be able to win."

by Jim SLATER

© 2017 AFP