August 11, 2017 / 1:15 AM / 6 months ago

Golf:'Free-rolling' gives way to pressure for Spieth's slam bid

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - So much for “free-rolling” at the PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth started his quest to complete the grand slam saying he did not feel any undue pressure, but his tune changed after a frustrating day on the greens in the first round on Thursday.

“I don’t think I was as free-rolling as I thought I would be, as you can tell by some frustration,” Spieth said after a one-over 72 that left him five strokes behind leaders Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner at Quail Hollow.

“If I would have shot one-over and didn’t strike it well and everything was average, it would have been fine. But 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.”

After his British Open victory, Spieth at 24 has a chance to supplant Tiger Woods as the youngest man to complete the career grand slam of winning all four majors.

He said he would need to reel in the deficit to less than five strokes after the second round to be in contention.

The Texan is a noted frontrunner, much like swimming champion Michael Phelps who followed him every step of the way after coming to town for a sponsor commitment.

Both are good at handling pressure, though Phelps never had to contend with bad bounces in the pool.

“Historically, I’m pretty solid with the lead,” Spieth said.

“It’s much easier when you are on the front page of the leaderboard than it is coming from behind. Given it’s the first round, I know I‘m still in it but I know that tomorrow’s round becomes that much more important to work my way and stay in it.

“I’ve got to make up ground.”

His putter will need to warm up.

“I can’t putt any worse than I did today,“ he said. ”I burned a lot of edges. Some were good putts and some weren‘t. I needed those (two late birdies) from short range because it seemed like the lid was on today.”

But Spieth took comfort in his accurate driving, not always his strong suit.

“If you told me I was going to hit my driver the way that I did today, I would have definitely thought I (would have shot) a few under par, which was an awesome score,” he said.

Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ian Ransom

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