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Three on top at Byron Nelson as Jordan Spieth looms

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
Three on top at Byron Nelson as Jordan Spieth looms
Jordan Speith walks up a hill near the 17th tee. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

IRVING, Texas -- If Sergio Garcia was worried about the golfers chasing him in the afternoon wave he blitzed the rain-softened TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas for a 7-under-par 63 on Thursday in the first round the AT&T Byron Nelson, it certainly didn't show.

By the time Danny Lee and Johnson Wagner posted 63s late in the day, Garcia was on an indoor basketball court in the adjacent resort, laughing it up while shooting 3-pointers and trying to head the ball into the goal.

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Garcia, Lee and Wagner shared the overnight lead when the first round was suspended by darkness.

One of the players who was right behind that trio, hometown favorite Jordan Spieth, was drawing the most attention when play was called for the day.

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The start of Thursday's first round was delayed for 2 1/2 hours because of rain and, once underway, was contested with preferred lies because of the wet course conditions.

Spieth, who played the 18th hole in the gloaming, Dustin Johnson and Freddie Jacobson were a shot back at 6-under.

Tom Hoge was at 6 under with four holes to play and was among the 30 players who had not concluded their rounds when darkness encroached. They will finish Friday beginning at 7 a.m. CDT before turning right around and heading back to the course for the second round.

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Eight other players, including James Hahn and Matt Kuchar, concluded their rounds tied for seventh at 5 under, while Bud Cauley was at that number but still had holes to play in the round. Eight players were finished at 4 under.

Garcia, who did not have a bogey on his card Thursday, played his round early in the day. He opened by playing the back nine at the 7,166-yard, par-70 course in 1 under.

The Spaniard increased the heat on the front nine, using pinpoint iron play to set the table for birdies on the second, fourth, sixth and eighth holes and an eagle on the seventh. The eagle came via a curling, 58-foot putt that went up and down a mound before finding the cup.

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"When you get on a run like that, every putt that was around the edge of the hole seems to drop in instead of staying out," Garcia said. "I have been playing decent and obviously I still feel like I can play better. Hopefully, I can keep this momentum going."

Garcia, the winner of this event in 2004, has solid history in tournaments conducted in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He made his professional debut at the AT&T Byron Nelson in 1999 and recorded his first PGA Tour win at the MasterCard Colonial in Fort Worth in 2001.

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"Texas has always been good to me -- I've done fairly well pretty much every time I played here so, you know, I enjoy it," Garcia said "I've always enjoyed these kind of golf courses that usually are a little bit firmer than today. Unfortunately, we got a lot of rain.

"It's always a little bit breezy, and you have to place the ball in the right spots, and I've always enjoyed that kind of golf."

He has won eight times on the PGA Tour, with his last victory in the United States at the Wyndham Championship in 2012. Garcia is currently ranked 48th in the world.

Lee, a transplanted New Zealander playing on his home course, had seven birdies and no bogeys in the afternoon wave, when the layout was playing considerably easier.

"It was really doable out there," Lee said. "It rained a lot last night, and the course was playing very soft. It was easy for me to hit fairways and greens. All you got to do is just try to land your ball somewhere near the flag, which I did great, and I also putted really well today."

Spieth said his 64 was about the best he could have shot Thursday on a day when he struggled with his iron play.

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"I was getting frustrated with these iron shots because it was like throwing darts out there and I was 40 feet away with an 8-iron," Spieth said. "It's a driving range shot that normally I'm expecting (to hit) within 15 feet, and after a couple misses and really almost a two-way miss today, and it's frustrating.

"But the fact that I was still controlling the speed well and then taking advantage of the easier holes certainly settled me down. I got the most out of the round that I could."

NOTES: Fifteen of the past 21 champions at the AT&T Byron Nelson have recorded all four rounds in the 60s. The exceptions were Keegan Bradley (2011), Jason Day (2010), Adam Scott (2008), Brett Wetterich (2006), Sergio Garcia (2004) and Jesper Parnevik (2000). ... Eleven players have claimed their first Tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, including four of the last six champions: Johnny Pott (1960), Charles Coody (1964), Mark Hayes (1976), Neal Lancaster (1994), Robert Damron (2001), Ted Purdy (2005), Wetterich (2006), Day (2010), Bradley (2011), Sangmoon Bae (2013), and Brendon Todd (2014). ... The current course record of 60 was set by Keegan Bradley in 2013. Arron Oberholser also shot 60 when the tournament was contested at Cottonwood Valley in 2006.

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