No happy return for Spieth

Defending champion Jordan Spieth struggled to an uncharacteristic five-over-par 76 in the first round of the Valspar Championship on Thursday.

The world number one was one of the hot favourites at Innesbrook this week, but already finds himself nine shots behind leaders Keegan Bradley, Ken Duke and Charles Howell III, who fired four-under-par 67s.

Chesson Hadley is one stroke behind in fourth place, while Chez Reavie, Charley Hoffman and Greg Yates are two strokes adrift of the lead in a tie for fifth.

Playing in blustery conditions, Spieth’s front nine is where he struggled most. His tee shots were wildly erratic and he struggled to find greens in regulation, leading to five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch. There was an 11-foot birdie putt at the 12th, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop the rot.

The world number one’s back nine wasn’t much better as he failed to make another birdie, but added another bogey at the third, which occurred when he missed a simple four-foot par putt.

The 22-year-old now has work ahead of him if he hopes to make the cut on Friday.

Meanwhile, Bradley, who failed to make the cut at the Honda Classic two weeks ago, found himself in a share of the lead after making five birdies, which included a 25-foot putt at the par-three fourth, and a bogey.

Duke enjoyed a bogey-free round,  and made a lone birdie on the front nine before going on to make three birdies on the back nine. The 47-year-old was in impressive form and he finished with a chip-in birdie at the 18th.

Howell also made four birdies during his round, the highlight of which came at the 11th, where he made a superb 45-foot birdie putt.