Jordan Spieth's cup half-full at U.S. Open after 73 despite early challenges

Before the dew had even been swept away and temperatures began to rise Thursday morning at Winged Foot, Jordan Spieth had already endured a fruitless search for a lost golf ball and a dreaded trip back to the tee at the second hole.

That led to a double bogey, following a bogey on his opening hole.

The 120th U.S. Open was barely underway, and Spieth was already 3 over par.

And his mystifying struggles continue, as Spieth -- the 2015 U.S. Open champion -- managed to shoot 3-over 73, leaving him tied for 71st place.

The three-time major championship winner has no victories since his 2017 Open victory, a span of more than three years. Scenes of Spieth searching for his game on driving ranges across the golf landscape are etched in the mind. And a place like Winged Foot does not often lead to miracle fixes.

"So I ended up finishing even after the second hole,'' he said. "All in all, shooting 3 over at a U.S. Open, feeling I had no control, it's not bad.''

Spieth will need to find something Friday in order to make it to the weekend, which given the state of his game appears a long shot.

"There's a lot that's off, I'm not really sure,'' he said. "If I knew, I'd fix it. I'm kind of just working through it and looking forward to having a little more time off to figure it out. I'm late behind it. The second I try to get back out in front, it's hooking.

"Standing on a tee at the U.S. Open and not exactly knowing where the ball is going to go is not a great feeling. It's not incredibly enjoyable. I'll grind it out. I don't ever give up. There's no reason to. I'm here.''

Spieth has two top-10 finishes in 2020, but he has not posted a top-5 since he finished tied for third at the 2018 PGA Championship.

A return from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown has seen Spieth post a single top-10 finish in nine events. He was eliminated after the first tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs, where he missed the cut at the Northern Trust. He also missed the cut last week at the Safeway Open, and his best finish in his past five events is a tie for 30th.

After starting 3 over after two holes, Spieth birdied three straight holes starting at the fourth to get back to even par. But he added two more bogeys and a double bogey at the par-5 12th against just one birdie on the back nine to shoot 38 over the final nine holes.

He hit just 3 of 14 fairways and only 11 of 18 greens for his round.

"The goal is to go out there and try to make the best score you can make on every single hole,'' he said. "Obviously, when you big picture it, there's going to be punches thrown at you from the golf course at a U.S. Open, but it's no way, shape or form that I come out today saying I just want to hang in there. The goal is to lead the golf tournament and continue to lead the golf tournament."

That appears difficult for Spieth at the moment. He's struggling with all aspects of his game and has been honest about it. Asked if he could try to forget some of the mechanics he has been working on and just swing away, Spieth highlighted how difficult that task has become.

"I'd love to, but the second I try and just pick a tree and swing at it, the ball goes pretty far offline,'' Spieth said. "There still needs to be focus on the mechanics. Just trying to find the blend, trying to find the balance. Trying to pick really, really tight targets where you can just try and be an athlete if something feels a little off during the swing, being able to adjust with your hands.

"I'm trying to take the hands out of it, but right now it's requiring a lot of timing. Unfortunately, I told myself going into the round that I would just play draws, just play draws.

"The only shot you have to hit a fade out here is No. 8 tee, and I played four fade shots today, and I played those holes 6 over. [No.] 2 tee, one on the second shot. Then 10 I tried and made bogey, and then 12 on the third shot. I played them two doubles and two bogeys with the four swings I played fades on. So I was right. The problem was I didn't stick with that or I'd probably be at even par, worst case right now."