Spieth, Simpson among quartet of Hyundai leaders


With the Kona winds cooperating this year moreso than last, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions got underway on schedule Friday at the Plantation Course. Here is how things stand after one round in Maui, where four players sit tied atop a crowded leaderboard:

Leaderboard: Webb Simpson (-7), Jordan Spieth (-7), Chris Kirk (-7), Michael Thompson (-7), Jason Dufner (-6), Kevin Streelman (-6), Zach Johnson (-6), Ryan Moore (-6)

What it means: As is often the case, the scores were low Friday along the Hawaiian coastline as players took full advantage of scoring conditions. While Kirk and Thompson were the first into the clubhouse with rounds of 66 on the par-73 layout, they were soon joined by Simpson and Spieth as the limited field has yet to show much separation, with eight of the 30 participants set to begin Saturday's second round within one shot of the lead.

Round of the day: One of 13 first-timers in Maui this week, Spieth is also the youngest in the field at age 20 - though he showed no signs of inexperience Friday. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year carded seven birdies without dropping a shot during his opening round, capping a closing stretch that included four birdies over his final five holes with a 12-foot putt on No. 18. Spieth missed just two greens and three fairways Friday, and as a result is once again near the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard.

Best of the rest: Kirk started slowly Friday, as a bogey on No. 10 dropped him to just 2 under on his round. He closed in a flurry, however, with a birdie at the par-4 14th hole the first of five such red figures with which he closed his round. A winner at the McGladrey Classic in November, Kirk missed only one green during his opening-round 66 and as a result finds himself firmly in contention as he seeks his third career PGA Tour win.

Biggest disappointment: It's tough to make a case for 67s ever being a disappointment, but for Streelman and Dufner that might just have been the case Friday. Streelman appeared poised to take the clubhouse lead at 8 under thanks to a hot putter, but errant approaches led to bogeys at both Nos. 17 and 18 to close his round. Dufner, meanwhile, began the day 6 under for his first nine holes and seemed ready to threaten the course record before finishing his round with nine consecutive pars on a back nine that yielded birdies by the bunches Friday.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: It remains to be seen how this packed leaderboard will begin to thin, but likely the player to keep an eye on is Spieth. After a rookie campaign for the history books in 2013, the Texan appears poised to shake off any notion of a sophomore slump with a fast start in Hawaii. Should he falter, though, major champions Simpson and Dufner headline the group of current contenders on a course where birdie will continue to be the name of the game for the next three days.

Shot of the day: After a strong drive left him just 212 yards from the hole on the par-5 fifth, Jason Dufner took dead aim and barely missed. His approach cleared the native area in front of the green and rolled to within four feet of the hole, setting up a kick-in eagle that helped spark the reigning PGA champion to an outward nine of 6-under 30.