Conditions were fierce in the early morning hours on Thursday at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, for the first round of the British Open. Eventually, they improved, and so did the scores. Thirty-nine players were under par, but none lower than Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka, who each posted five-under 65s to tie for the lead.
The first of the American trio in the clubhouse was Spieth, who hit just five of 14 fairways during his bogey-free round. But the No. 1 player on tour in strokes gained/approach the green was able to hit 15 of 18 greens, tied for the most in the field. After the round, Spieth spoke about how important it was to get off to a good start, and mentioned par could be a good score the rest of the way considering the incoming weather. He tees off Friday at 2:48 p.m. British Summer Time, when winds are forecasted to hit 25 mph.
Two groups behind Spieth was Koepka, who had just 21 putts, the fewest of anyone in the field. The highlight of the round came after a bogey on the 16th, when he holed out for eagle from a greenside bunker on the par-5 17th to tie for the lead. Despite not playing since his breakthrough victory at the U.S. Open, Koepka picked up right where he left off at Erin Hills a month ago.
Kuchar, who missed the cut in his prior two appearances in an Open at Royal Birkdale, went out in five-under 29 on his opening nine. It had the makings of a special day, but the seven-time tour winner wasn't able to add another red number on the home nine, finishing with a bogey-free 65. It's his 13th appearance at the Open Championship, where he's missed six cuts and registered just one top-10.
England's Paul Casey and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel are just one back after carding four-under 66s.
Six players are two shots back at three-under, including Englishman Ian Poulter, who shot one of the more impressive 67s of the day in the difficult morning conditions. Defending champion Henrik Stenson and Jason Day shot one-under 69s and are just four back.
Two of the top four players in the world, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, lurk at one-over after posting 71s.