Did Jordan Spieth finally solve TPC Sawgrass in Thursday's opening 70?

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jordan Spieth might have finally figured out how to handle TPC Sawgrass.

He’s treating it like a major test.

After being the 54-hole co-leader in 2014, Spieth has missed the cut in four of his last five appearances here. His prior form hasn’t much mattered – he just hasn’t been able to solve the Pete Dye riddle.

Jordan Spieth sees room for improvement after first round

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But Thursday was one of his most promising starts, carrying over his recent good form and signing for a 2-under 70, which put him just outside the top 10 and only five shots off the early lead at The Players.

So what was the key to his turnaround?

“You have to play this course almost like a U.S. Open venue,” he said. “If you don’t get a perfect number with the right wind, you just can’t attack, even if it’s a wedge. Just wait for your spots and take advantage of the par 5s. That’s how I’m supposed to play this place. And I did a great job of that today for the most part, and that’s going to be my game plan going forward, for sure.”

In a promising sign, Spieth led the field in strokes gained: off the tee in Round 1, gaining more than two strokes while hitting 12 of 14 fairways. Entering the week, he was ranked 181st in that category.

“From the spots I was playing and the shots I hit into greens mid-air, I would have said I should have shot lower, but at the beginning of the day, I would have certainly signed for a 70,” he said. “I feel really good about today overall.”