Thursday, 20 July 2017
Koepka  (Getty Images)
Koepka (Getty Images)

Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth led the way after day one of the 146th Open Championship but Charl Schwartzel was just a shot back at Royal Birkdale.

The American trio posted rounds of 65 to get to five under before Schwartzel produced a birdie-birdie finish to move alongside Paul Casey, with English duo Richard Bland and Ian Poulter, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and Canadian Austin Connelly in the group just a shot further back.

This is Koepka's first European Tour event since he won the US Open Championship as he goes in search of back-to-back Majors, while Spieth won both of his Major titles in 2015 as he claimed the Masters Tournament and US Open.

Kuchar played the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last week as part of his Open preparations and has eight top tens in golf's four biggest events as well as an Olympic Bronze Medal.

Schwartzel is going in search of a second Major after winning the Green Jacket in 2011 and already has 11 European Tour titles to his name.

Spieth rolled in a right-to-lefter on the second, played a glorious approach to the eighth and a six-footer handed him the lead as he turned. A lengthy effort on the 14th and a birdie on the par five 17th briefly handed him a two-shot lead but Koepka soon reeled him in.

"I thought today's round was extremely important, as they all are, but given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today," said Spieth.

"You can certainly make up ground in a round like tomorrow and we'll see it happen but being able to play with shots or play a little more conservative, you make a bogey because you don't try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that's nice and very helpful."

Koepka had turned in 33 with a single birdie on the eighth but a hat-trick of gains from the 11th had him in a share of the lead with Spieth. He dropped a shot on the 16th but responded in style, holing a bunker shot on the next for an eagle.

"I played pretty solid today," he said. "I felt like I was in control of the golf ball pretty much all day and it was just fun to get back playing again.

"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 those rake marks and my caddie told me to get inside ten feet, that would be pretty good. Luckily enough it went in."

Kuchar turned in 29 with birdies on the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth but a host of scraped edges on the back nine meant he had to be content with a share of the lead.

"We had enough - four, five, six holes that were certainly challenging this morning," he said. "I don't think near as challenging as the early guys but as we got later on in the day, the sun came out and warmed up. Still breezy but certainly easier than this morning.

"For me to start my Open with a 29 on the front nine is a great way to start."

Schwartzel turned in 34 but really came to life on the back nine, picking up shots on the tenth, 13th, 17th and 18th.

Poulter made an early move with birdies on the second and fourth and while he dropped a shot on the seventh, he picked it back up on the ninth to turn in 32. Another birdie on the 17th then saw him set the target before the American charge.

Bland turned in level par but had a birdie-birdie-birdie finish to fly up the leaderboard, while Connelly had six birdies but a bogey and a double stalled his progress.

Last week's winner Cabrera Bello turned in 32 with four birdies and looked set to challenge the lead with back-to-back gains on the 15th and 16th but he dropped a shot on the last.

Americans Charley Hoffman and Justin Thomas were also at three under.

Ernie Els, David Lipsky, Joost Luiten, Stuart Manley, Alex Noren and Richie Ramsay were then in the group at two under, one clear of a pack including defending champion Henrik Stenson.

World Number Four Rory McIlroy recovered from being five over after six holes with four birdies on the back nine to sit at one over.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SPIETH, JordanUSA18-12
2KUCHAR, MattUSA18-9
3LI, HaotongCHN18-6
T4MCILROY, RoryNIR18-5
T4CABRERA BELLO, RafaESP18-5
T6SOUTHGATE, MatthewENG18-4

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