Birdie run gives Spieth 2-shot lead in Masters

Augusta National simply brings out the best in Jordan Spieth’s game.

Spieth, who has never finished worse than a tie for 11th in four appearances in the Masters, made five straight birdies down the stretch to shoot six-under-par 66 and take a two-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau after one round in the PGA Tour’s first major of the season in Augusta, Ga.

“I made good par saves on 10-11-12, but I felt my hands slipping, so I switched gloves,” said Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, who eagled the eighth hole and ended his birdie run by saving bogey after hitting a wild drive on the final hole. “After (putting on the new gloves) I just had some good numbers, which is important here at Augusta, and I just went pin-seeking.

“It was a really good round, but it’s only the first round and I can’t get ahead of myself, but hopefully can ride the momentum the rest of the way.”

The fourth-ranked Spieth has held at least a share of the lead after nine of his 17 rounds in the Masters.

Kuchar collected five birdies on the back nine for a 68 that matched Finau, who almost could not play because he dislocated his left ankle while celebrating a hole in one during the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday. He had four birdies on the front nine and led much of the day until Spieth passed him.

“After what happened yesterday and the way I felt this morning, there’s no way I expected to be in this position,” said Finau, who did not know he could play in his first Masters until having an MRI exam on Thursday morning. “This is something I’ve dreamed about all my life and the possibility that it might slip away was tough.

“Once they told me nothing was broken, I was good to go and I was going to play. Maybe it was adrenaline, but I felt good, mind over matter. It felt better and better as I went along. I actually stopped thinking about it, except that people kept reminding me of it.”

Seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland , who will complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory this week, shot 69 and is tied for fourth with Charley Hoffman of Poway, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Adam Hadwin of Canada, Patrick Reed, Haotong Li of China and Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain.

Eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler shot 70 and is in a tie for 11th that includes three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, while fifth-ranked Justin Rose of England is tied for 21st after a 71.

Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, playing in the tournament for the first time since 2015, salvaged a 73 with two late birdies and is in a tie for 29th that included top-ranked Dustin Johnson, who made a bogey on the last hole.

Sixth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama of Japan carded a 73 and is in a tie for 29th that includes two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, while second-ranked Justin Thomas totaled 74 to tie for 42nd and third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain is tied for 55th at 75.

Ninth-ranked Sergio Garcia of Spain, the defending champion, hit five balls in the water while taking a 13 on the 15th hole and is tied for 85th, or next-to-last, following an 81.

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