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Jordan Spieth playing 'beautifully' at Genesis Open after bad finish at Pebble Beach

Jordan Spieth playing 'beautifully' at Genesis Open after bad finish at Pebble Beach
Fans react as Jordan Spieth just misses a birdie on the 18th hole during the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Jordan Spieth clocked out at the office at about 8:30 Friday morning. A short day, long on productivity.

Spieth, who had completed 12 holes Thursday in his rain-delayed first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, returned early Friday to complete his round. He played almost flawlessly, going two under in six holes to finish at seven-under par and alone atop the leaderboard at the time. He sat three shots behind Justin Thomas and Adam Scott after play ended Friday.

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The 11-time winner on the PGA Tour didn’t win any events last year, and in three this year he has missed a cut and finished tied for 35th and 45th. But he’s seeing improvement.

“From San Diego to Pebble was significant progress, from Pebble to here has been significant progress just in the way I feel hitting the ball,” he said.

“I’m looking to try and make progress each day … because it didn’t sustain through the weekend at Pebble.”

Last week in Pebble Beach, Spieth shot 66-68 in the first two rounds, then 74-75 on the weekend. Two weeks earlier at Torrey Pines, he opened with a 65, followed by three 72s.

Spieth wants to avoid tailing off like that again.

“I played beautifully today on those six holes,” he said. “I got off to good starts my last couple events, and I need to continue to work hard to improve each day here instead of kind of getting complacent and assuming that my game’s there.”

Spieth planned to take things easy before starting his second round Saturday morning.

“Light work and then rest,” he said, “be prepared for 27 to 30 holes tomorrow and potentially another 27ish on Sunday. .... I think less is more. ... It’s all about trying to save as much energy as possible.”

A stream might run through it

One of the unique characteristics of Riviera Country Club is that, despite the barranca (or deep gully) that meanders throughout the course, there is no water on the Pacific Palisades layout. That wasn’t always the case.

A creek used to flow at the base of that barranca, but serious flooding in the late 1930s and again in 1969 eventually led the club to install a large concrete pipe underground to carry water through to the exit point on the sixth hole.

If Riviera President Megan Watanabe’s wishes come true, that will change. Watanabe said Friday that the club is awaiting the various approvals from the City of Los Angeles to get the water back to the surface, rebuild the creek and make it a feature of the course that was part of George C.Thomas’ original design.

“About three years ago, the city came to us,” Watanabe said. “They were interested in putting the water back on the course; they wanted to clean the water before it got to the ocean. We were delighted. Of course, there is a lot of politics involved, so we’re just waiting on them. But we’re ready.”

Watanabe said the club would hire an individual to design the creek as quickly as possible once it got the go-ahead.

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