American trio Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar hold a share of the lead on day one, carding the first 65’s during an Open at Royal Birkdale since 1998.
Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka were among those to start in the cold and windy conditions during the first morning of the 146th Open, but despite having the harder side of the draw their early clubhouse target would not be surpassed for the remainder of the day.
Spieth's impressive performance - which matches his best ever round in an Open - led him to say it was one of his top five major rounds, putting it down to his impressive putting and hitting 15 of 18 greens.
"I thought I give it a nine across the board for everything - tee balls, ball-striking, short game and putting," Spieth said after his round. "I'd call it a top five probably, major round that I've played, maybe fifth or sixth, something like that. I couldn't have done much better today."
Koepka bogeyed the 15th to drop back to three-under-par, but a hole-out eagle from the bunker on the 17th put the US Open champion back to five-under and he finished with a par to cement his spot at the top of a major leaderboard for the second time this year.
“I felt like I was in control of the golf ball pretty much all day,” said Koepka. “I played really solid. And unfortunately one bogey on 16, just a bad putt. But 17 was actually a terrible lie in the bunker. It was in one of the those rake marks. And my caddie told me to get inside ten feet; that would be pretty good. And luckily enough it went in”
The weather became a lot kinder during the afternoon tee times, and it was Matt Kuchar who made the most significant use of the warmer and less windy conditions. The American stormed to the top of the leaderboard with four birdies in his first six holes, gaining another at the ninth to make the turn in 29 to join Spieth and Koepka at the top before a level par back-nine.
“I watched some of the golf this morning and it looked awfully challenging and like under par would be a good score,” Kuchar said. “It seemed like the later your tee time the better the draw you got. To start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine was a great start”
Paul Casey, who like Kuchar is searching for his maiden major, holds fourth spot on 4-under with Charl Schwartzel.
Charley Hoffman, who set the first-round pace at the Masters earlier this year, eagled the first and briefly made an appearance at the top of the leaderboard, but he was unable to gain another and after back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th he signed off for a 66 to lie two-shots back of the leaders.
Hoffman holds a share of 6th with Rafa Cabera Bello, Justin Thomas, Richard Bland, Austin Connelly and Iain Poulter – with the Englishman putting himself in a good position as he seeks to go one better than his runner-up finish to Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008.
Eleven players, including several 2017 winners such as Alex Noren and Hideki Matsuyama, hold a share of 12th spot at 2-under with former major champion Bubba Watson.
Elsewhere, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day and Adam Scott sit at 1-under par with six others, while World No.1 Dustin Johnson ended his round with a one-over-par 71.
Garcia struggles and McIlroy recovers from horror front nine at Royal Birkdale
Both Masters Champion Sergio Garcia and World No.4 Rory McIlroy struggled during the first round of the 146th Open, with McIlroy carding a 72 and Garcia a further shot adrift with a 73.
It was slightly surprising that Garcia, who has two victories in 2017 and hasn't missed a cut all year, had a disappointing start thanks to four dropped shots in five holes, but recovered some of the damage with birdies on the final two-holes.
Rory McIlroy had what can only be described as a nightmare start with five bogeys on his opening six holes to end up 10 shots back of the leaders and seemingly dash his chances of making an impact at the third major of the year.
However, a different McIlroy appeared after the turn to grind back four shots, which included three birdies on his last four holes to complete an impressive comeback to finish his round at one-over-par.
The weirdest story of Round One
On the very first hole in one of the very early starting groups, KT Kim suffered one of the most unusual penalties we've known to happen in golf.
His caddie, mistaking Kim's ball for David Duval's provisional shot off the tee, picked up his player's ball and accidentally incurred Kim a one-shot penalty that ended up in a triple bogey seven.