Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spieth, feeling at home, wins on Day 1 at WGC-Dell Match Play

Jordan Spieth is playing on comfortable turf this week at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

Not only is he competing in Austin, where he spent three semesters at the University of Texas, but Spieth is also competing on a host course in Austin Country Club that he played once or twice each week of his brief collegiate life.

The third benefit of home-state advantage became clear on Wednesday. Spieth has a hero's gallery, and they're soundly in his corner. That crowd cheered on Spieth as he beat 2014 Ryder Cup foe Jamie Donaldson by a 3-and-2 count in Day 1 of round-robin pool play.

Spieth did his damage against Donaldson in the first seven holes, winning five, losing one and halving the other. In that stretch, he missed just one fairway and played 3-under golf. 

''I played the first seven holes or so perfectly. That's pretty commanding. I was very pleased with that,'' Spieth said. ''I didn't back down, I kept hitting driver. I kept on going for stuff, almost too much."

The world No. 1 gave back a hole when Donaldson birdied the eighth hole, but he shut the door on the Welshman when he saved par on the 12th after hitting his second shot to the par 5 in the left-side water hazard.

''I just made some really poor decisions to let him back into the match. Fortunately stuck through it,'' Spieth said. ''He's a very tough match-play player ... knew there wasn't going to be give-up after 4 down.''

Even as Donaldson was making aggressive, impressive plays to stay in the match, the partisan crowd didn't give him any love. In fact, more often than not, Donaldson got crickets in response. It had to be jarring for Donaldson, but Spieth loved it.

''It almost like a home Ryder Cup match,'' Spieth said. ''They weren't cheering when putts were missed, everyone was very respectful, but every step I took, somebody was yelling or cheering `Hook'em Horns' or `Go Jordan,' which is really, really cool.''

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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