SOUTHPORT, England – It is bunched at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the 146th Open and some of those names are ones you’d expect to be there. Here’s a closer look at how it all went down Thursday at Royal Birkdale:
Leaderboard: Jordan Spieth (-5), Brooks Koepka (-5), Matt Kuchar (-5), Paul Casey (-4), Charl Schwartzel (-4), Ian Poulter (-3), Justin Thomas (-3), Richard Bland (-3), Austin Connelly (-3), Charley Hoffman (-3), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-3).
What it means: Spieth shot his 65 early, Koepka matched it a couple hours later, then Kuchar did the same later in the afternoon. All three were equally impressive and weather was fair for everyone most of the day, something that doesn’t often happen at The Open. While it’s great to jump out to such a great start for these three, and anyone else within striking distance, everyone in the field knows that the weather in Round 2 is going to be utterly putrid. So don’t let the Day 1 scores fool you, it’s going to get ugly quick and the next three days are going to be extremely trying.
Round of the day: On this day all 65s were created equal but Spieth’s was the most memorable. He only hit five fairways, but his iron-play and putting both were spectacular. Midway through the round (at 3 under after nine holes) Spieth started to have that strut that you may remember from his two-win major championship season of two years ago. He may not win, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he won’t be in the hunt on Sunday.
Best of the rest: Keep in mind that this was Koepka’s first competitive round in a month, since he hoisted the U.S. Open trophy at Erin Hills. He made par on the first seven holes but got hot with birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 13, then eagled the par-5 17th. Kuchar was 5 under on the front nine (shot 29) and then parred each of the last nine holes.
Biggest disappointment: It was going to be Rory McIlroy, until he birdied three of his last four holes to shoot 71. Instead, the (dis)honor goes to Masters champion Sergio Garcia. He was just 2 over late in the round with two par 5s left but he bogeyed the par-5 15th and then made double bogey on the par-4 16th. Birdies on the final two holes softened the blow a little but still, an opening 73 for one of The Open favorites was just not good enough in decent conditions.
Shot of the day: Charley Hoffman blew his opening tee shot right, then holed it for an eagle on the par-4 first hole. It was the first eagle on the first hole at Royal Birkdale since stats first were recorded in 1983. He made late bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17, but still shot 3-under 67.
Quote of the day: “I’d call it a top-five probably, major round that I’ve played. Maybe fifth or sixth, something like that. There are scores that I’ve shot that were closer to par that were better given what I needed to do. But I couldn’t have done much better today.” – Spieth