Spieth won by eight shots last year and shot a spectacular 30 under par. He had never been worse than second place after each of his previous eight rounds at Kapalua.
But the defending champion shot 1-under 72 on Thursday and is tied for 22nd place, seven shots behind Jimmy Walker.
“Just distance control on my scoring clubs there when I had anywhere from 120 yards and in,” he said. “So stuff that normally comes around with enough work.”
He hit 11 of 15 fairways and 15 of 18 greens but took 33 total swats with the flatstick.
Spieth certainly isn’t out of the tournament after only one round, but history is against him. The last six winners of this event were either in the lead or within two shots of the lead after Round 1; the last six winners were each inside the top-five after the first round.
“It’s somewhere in the low 20s (under) probably for the winning score,” he said. “Try and shoot 7 (under) each day. It’s certainly easier said than done, but we’ve also done it here before. And the course is gettable enough to do so.”