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Spieth struggles at windy Innisbrook

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The number one golfer in the world is in the Tampa Bay area this weekend. Unless he plays much better on Friday than he did on Thursday, Jordan Spieth won’t be here on Saturday.

Spieth, the defending champion in the Valspar Championship, shot a five-over-par 76 to finish in a tie for 117th, nine shots behind tournament co-leaders Keegan Bradley, Charles Howell III and Ken Duke. The field battled blustery winds at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbor.

“I got off to a poor start and I was behind the eight-ball with gusty wind on a tough course,” said a frustrated Spieth. “What good is kicking the door other than hurting my foot and (being forced to) withdraw? I’m kidding. I’ll be fine.”

He runs the risk of missing the cut for the second time in three weeks. He could not recover from a first round 79 at the Northern Trust Open last month.

Bradley had five birdies and one bogey on his round at the 7,340-yard, par 71 course. Duke and Howell had bogey-free rounds, while Spieth suffered through six bogeys and only one birdie.

Former Florida State star Jonas Blixt of Sweden finished the round in a tie for eighth at one under par. Joining him at one under is two-time U.S. Open Champion Retief Goosen of South Africa and former PGA and U.S. Open Champion Martin Kaymer of Germany.

Ian Poulter of England, who routinely destroys American Ryder Cup hopes, finished at one over par 72.

For those wanting to take Friday off and catch the second round, the wind is predicted to diminish. Some of the notable tee times are Poulter at 6:50 a.m.; Blixt at 7:12; Goosen and Stuart Appleby at 7:23.

Among the leaders, Howell tees off at 8:40, Bradley at 12:24 and Duke at 1:08. Spieth begins his quest to make the cut at 12:57.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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