Spieth ties for Hero lead with 66

Jordan Spieth tied for Hero lead (Michael Weinstein photo)

Defending champion Jordan Spieth rallied from a sluggish start to post a 6-under-par 66 and was tied for the lead with Jimmy Walker and Bill Haas midway through the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas.

The 22-year-old Spieth, who is No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, took bogeys on the third and fifth holes before running off three straight birdies through No. 8, and then added a 35-foot eagle putt at No. 11 plus two more birdies on the back nine.

“The conditions were totally different from yesterday,” said Spieth, who won the tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, by 10 strokes last year. “It was totally still for the majority of the round and scoring conditions were perfect.

“It was all positive after a rough start, to make (five birdies and an eagle) after being 1-over through five holes. … I knew I wasn’t hitting bad shots. I felt great over the ball and great with the putter. … Obviously, I’m very pleased with it.”

Haas sank a five-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole and also shot 66, while Walker collected seven birdies in his 67, but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have given him the outright lead.

Patrick Reed equaled the competitive course record with a bogey-free 65 and was one stroke behind in a tie for fourth with Chris Kirk, who had one bogey in his 65, and Bubba Watson, who came in with a second 67.

Zach Johnson and Paul Casey of England, who were tied for the first-round lead with Walker, came back with 70s and were three shots back in a tie for seventh with Matt Kuchar, who had eight birdies in a 66.

Dustin Johnson could not build on a bogey-free 4-under 32 on the front nine and shot 69, leaving him four strokes down in a tie for 10th with Adam Scott of Australia and Brooks Koepka, who both had 70s.

Rickie Fowler hung up four straight birdies through No. 10 and was another stroke back in solo 13th after a 68, while J.B. Holmes also totaled 68 and was one more shot behind in a tie for 14th with Anirban Lahiri of India, who finished at 70.

Billy Horschel was 16th in the exclusive 18-player field following a 70, followed by Justin Rose of England, who wound up at 72, and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who came in at 73.

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