EDISON, N.J. — The start of the FedEx Cup playoffs brought out the worst score from Jordan Spieth in three months.
In his first tournament as No. 1 in the world, Spieth had a pair of three-putt bogeys, hit a tee shot in the water, shot 40 on his back nine and finished with 4-over 74 in the opening round of the Barclays. It was his highest score since a 75 in the Players Championship, the last time he missed a cut.
"Just lost a little bit of focus," Spieth said. "All in all, I'm just going to take today as a fluke round. I still believe I'm playing well. It just happened to be an off day on a day where it counted."
Bubba Watson and Tony Finau powered their way around Plainfield Country Club and each had 5-under 65. They were in a four-way tie for the lead that included Spencer Levin and Camilo Villegas, players in dire need of a good week.
Villegas, a former Gator standout, only got into the top 125 to qualify for the playoffs last week at the Wyndham Championship, with two shots to spare. That was pressure. Now he feels as though he has nothing to lose as he tries to get into the top 100 who advance to the second event next week at the TPC Boston.
"Last week was an important week," said Villegas, who is No. 123. "It hasn't been the best of years and just to be able to sneak in here and give myself a chance … I get off to a good start, and three more rounds to go and keep it going."
Levin secured his spot in the playoffs with 63 in the final round at the Wyndham, moving up seven spots to No. 115. Much like Villegas, he felt relieved to have made it to the Barclays, and everything else is gravy.
Spieth has nothing to lose except the No. 1 ranking he has held for all of two weeks.
With two majors among his four wins, and nine top-three finishes this year, he is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup and virtually assured of getting to the finale at East Lake with a clear shot at the $10 million bonus, so he can afford an off week or three.
Playing alongside Watson and Jason Day — the top three in the FedEx Cup — Spieth didn't miss a fairway on the back nine and was 2 under at the turn, three shots behind Watson. From the fairway on No. 1 to a back pin, he got too aggressive and went over the green, leading to bogey. Facing a 20-foot birdie putt on the next hole, he left it woefully short and backed off the par putt twice before missing it. And then he put his next shot in the water.
The round ended with another three-putt bogey.
Spieth could lose the No. 1 ranking to Rory McIlroy, who is not playing this week as a precaution coming off an ankle injury. The next step for Spieth?
"Do what I've done best — bounce back," he said. "I come back strong tomorrow. I'm not a big fan of the course. It doesn't fit me very well particularly, but I've also won on courses that I didn't think fit me very well."
Paul Casey and Jason Dufner were in a large group at 66. Day joined Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in the group at 68.
LPGA: Brittany Lang birdied five of the first seven holes for 7-under 65 to take the first-round lead at the LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala. She had a two-stroke lead over Tiffany Joh, Sydnee Michaels and Ryann O'Toole.