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Big Three struggled to keep the buzz going at Doral

DORAL, Fla. -- There was a buzz in the air surrounding the 10th tee on Trump National Doral's TPC Blue Monster course, right at 11:32 ET on Thursday morning.

As the world's top three players -- Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy -- teed off in the WGC-Cadillac Championship opening round, in that exact order, spectators craned their necks and shielded their eyes from the sun just to catch a glimpse of the stars' drives in the air.

They each birdied that opening hole and the proverbial Battle of the Superstars was ostensibly on.

And then, the buzz burst.

It wasn't that the triumphant trio played poorly. In fact, they played pretty well on a course famous for low-flying planes overhead and high-flying scores on the ground.

By the time they had finished, Spieth posted a group-best, 3-under 69, while McIlroy was 2 shots further back at 71 and Day carded a 72. While none shot himself out of the tournament on the first day, they're all chasing leaders Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser.

It was the first time all three had played in the same group since the opening two rounds at last year's Players Championship, when Spieth and Day both missed the cut.

Those were such a forgettable 36 holes that when asked about it this week, Spieth couldn't even recall all three of them playing together.

This week has worked out better so far -- there's no cut at this event, so that isn't a worry -- although they didn't exactly feed off one another the way we might have guessed beforehand.

Then again, that's pretty common. Without crunching the numbers, whenever there's great anticipation for a superstar group, especially during the first two rounds, it often ends in some type of disappointment.

That sort of epitomized this round, too. They all played well, but they never worked the crowd into a frenzy, either.

And that buzz? Well, it just didn't quite stick around.

"It was good at the start, and then it kind of declined coming in," Day explained.

"The front nine, the atmosphere was better," McIlroy said. "Then the sun went in, so the people went away, basically. I think that's what really happened."

Not that there weren't some worthy storylines among the triumvirate.

Coming off a missed cut in his last start, Spieth carded five birdies against two bogeys and seemed genuinely pleased with his start after the round.

As for the company of his playing partners, he liked the dynamic. But that doesn't mean it impacted his final score in any way.

"It's just like it is any time that we're playing together, whether it's just two of us or all three," Spieth said. "We're playing our own game, but we enjoy the company of each other.

"We were actually able to feed off each other for a while on a very difficult golf course through the first 12 holes or so. And then each of us had a bit of a slip towards the end, and a little bit of a damper on the round, a little bummer on the round, but we'll come back tomorrow and get off to a good start."

McIlroy played the Rodney Dangerfield role for the first third of the round, sans tugging on his collar.

For the first six holes, the name on the back of caddie J.P. Fitzgerald's bib read "MCLLORY," as did the name on the walking scorer's board.

"I've been out here nine years now and they still couldn't get my name right," McIlroy later deadpanned.

He might have felt a little disrespected by his new putting stroke, too. For the first time since his rookie year, McIlroy decided to employ a left-hand-low style, which yielded five birdies, but it also forced him to take a total of 33 putts for the round, ranking 56th in the 66-man field in the strokes-gained putting category.

As for whether his playing partners affected his game, he echoed Spieth's sentiment.

"Not a whole lot," McIlroy explained. "I'm really trying to concentrate on myself. I've got a hard enough time thinking about myself at the minute. Just trying to concentrate on that and go from there."

Following two weeks off, Day's even-par round featured four birdies and four bogeys -- two of the latter coming on the final six holes.

He insisted that if the threesome lost some of its mojo, he might have been the cause.

"I was the first one to go," Day said with a smile. "I don't think the attitude, my attitude, helped those guys a lot."

He was still smiling when asked about the buzz, one which permeated the air at the beginning of the round and was dead calm by the end of it.

"It will be better; it's Thursday," Day said. "Once the weekend comes around, there's going to be a few more people having a drink and should be a little bit louder."

That will be especially true if the world's top three players can keep themselves in contention.