Thompson, Kirk, Simpson and Spieth take control in Hawaii

Fri Jan 3, 2014 10:49pm EST
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(Reuters) - Americans Michael Thompson, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth reveled in a birdie fest as they charged into a tie for the lead in Friday's opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Thompson birdied five of the last eight holes for a seven-under-par 66 in breezy conditions at the picturesque Kapalua Resort in Hawaii to seize the early lead at the elite, winners-only event.

However, Thompson was caught at the top by a red-hot Kirk, who piled up five consecutive birdies from the 14th, and then Spieth, who calmly rolled in a 12-footer on the 18th green for his seventh birdie in a bogey-free round.

Late in the day, 2012 U.S. Open champion Simpson made it a four-way share of the lead after recording three birdies in the last four holes at Kapalua's undulating Plantation Course.

"I played really well," Thompson, who booked his place in the prestigious field of 30 with his maiden PGA Tour victory at last year's Honda Classic, told Golf Channel after mixing eight birdies with a lone bogey.

"I stuck to my game plan today which was to stay in the present, stay in the moment, visualize my shots really clearly and I executed. So it was a fun day."

Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after a sensational campaign that included a maiden win at the John Deere Classic and total earnings of just under $4 million, said he was "humbled" to be in the elite field at Kapalua.

"It's amazing," the 20-year-old Texan smiled. "It's an accomplishment just to be here in the first place and I am humbled to play alongside these 29 other guys that are champions from the past year.

"It's good fun. To play Kapalua, a course I've watched for so many years, and then finally being able to be here, it's a cool experience for me."   Continued...