Here is a recap of the first round of the British Open, played at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England:
LEADING: Jordan Spieth had a two-shot lead when he posted at 5-under 65 early in the day, but he would be caught by Brooks Koepka and later Matt Kuchar. Spieth actually had a short putt for birdie at 18 to shoot 64 but couldn’t get it to drop. Koepka holed a greenside bunker shot at No. 17 for eagle to gain his share. More on Spieth’s and Koepka’s days here and here. Kuchar appeared he might blow everybody out of the water Thursday, as he opened in 5-under 29. But Kuchar parred out on the back nine for 65. Both Spieth and Kuchar were bogey-free on the day. Spieth was 1 under for the round until birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 and then spent parts of the back nine battling Koepka for the lead. For both Spieth and Koepka, this is their first start since a win. Koepka hasn’t played since a four-shot triumph at the U.S. Open, while Spieth was last seen holing a bunker shot in a playoff to win the Travelers Championship.
CHASING: Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel are tied for fourth at 4 under, while Ian Poulter promisingly opened in 3-under 67 (T-6) alongside the cardigan-and-tie wearing Justin Thomas. Austin Connelly, a world traveler, is also at 3 under as is Rafa Cabrera-Bello, last week’s Scottish Open champion. Charley Hoffman is there as well, and actually reached 5 under and the co-lead at one point. Two late bogeys, but the stroke below will be an incredible memory…
SHOT OF THE DAY: Hoffman started his British Open in stunning fashion. An incredible hole-out on the par-4 first is certainly the best stroke from Thursday.
QUOTABLE: “Payne Stewart used to do it and it served him well. But I think mint has some sort of effect on nerves. But I was still feeling them a bit out there. So I don’t think it’s beneficial at all.” – Jordan Spieth, on whether his gum chewing helped him Thursday
SHORT SHOTS: Stuart Manley, an unknown who’s missed six cuts in a row, finished eagle-birdie to post at 2 under. That was the earliest clubhouse lead and is a solid T-12 right now. A primer on Manley here. … Hideki Matsuyama is also at 2 under, as is James Hahn, the last player in the field. … Henrik Stenson, the defending champion, posts a 1-under 69 and is T-26. That’s where Jason Day sits, too, after he buries a long putt for birdie at 18. … Justin Rose, who finished T-4 here as an amateur in 1998, was 2 under early but faded to a 1-over 71. He’s T-58. So is Rickie Fowler. … Rory McIlroy is there, too, but feeling a lot better as he was five over through six but shot 4-under 32 on the back nine to salvage a 71. … Dustin Johnson, the World No. 1, is also at 1 over. … Phil Mickelson goes birdie-less in a British Open round for the first time since 1999 on his way to a 73 (T-90). … Tommy Fleetwood, the hometown dark horse, fires a 76 and is T-133.