Spieth well back in patchy Open tune-up

Jordan Spieth struggled in his return to the US PGA Tour on Thursday, firing an even-par 71 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic in Illinois, the final tune-up before the British Open.

Spieth is a huge eight shots off the lead held by Americans Justin Thomas and Nicholas Thompson, who shot eight-under 63s on Thursday to grab a one-stroke advantage.

Luke Guthrie bogeyed the last hole and he fell into a share of third place with Charles Howell.

Greg Chalmers and Cameron Percy are the best-placed Australians at three-under in a tie for 37th.

Spieth is having a year for the ages after winning the first two major championships of the season and is hoping to use the tournament as a springboard for success at next week’s British Open.

The 21-year-old has happy memories of the event after winning the event as a teenager in 2013 to become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 82 years, beating Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a play-off.

But he has his work cut out for him if he is to do it again as he finished eight shots back of the leaders on Thursday with three bogeys, three birdies and 12 pars in the first round at the TPC Deere Run. Spieth was six shots back after round one when he won in 2013.

American Steve Stricker, who has won this event three times, is in the hunt once again following his six-under 65. He is tied for fifth with Robert Garrigus, Daniel Summerhays, Shawn Stefani and Steven Alker.

Defending champion Brian Harman shot a four-under 67, putting him in a tie for 21st.

Thomas, who contended at last week’s Greenbrier Classic and is gunning for his first US tour title, rolled in 10 birdies.

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