The 23-year-old is targeting his third major after triumphing at the Masters and US Open, and impressed on day one at Royal Birkdale
TWO-TIME major winner Jordan Spieth gave himself nine out of 10 after beginning his bid to secure the third leg of a career grand slam in impressive fashion in the 146th Open Championship.
Spieth carded a bogey-free 65 at Royal Birkdale to share the clubhouse lead with US Open champion Brooks Koepka, whose round included four birdies and an eagle.
As the final groups headed out on to the course, the American pair enjoyed a two-shot lead over compatriot Justin Thomas and the English duo of Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, with Welshman Stuart Manley part of a group on two under on his Open debut.
The 65s of Ryder Cup team-mates Spieth and Koepka equalled the second lowest first round score in an Open at Birkdale, a shot outside Craig Stadler’s record of 64 set in 1983.
But after hitting just five of 14 fairways, Spieth knew there was room for improvement as he looks to add the Open title to his Masters and US Open victories in 2015.
The 23-year-old said.”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 (under par) today.
“Everything was strong. I give it a nine across the board for everything – tee balls, ball-striking, short game and putting. So things are in check. It’s just about keeping it consistent.
“I’d call it a top five major round that I’ve played. There are scores that I’ve shot that were closer to par that were better given what I needed to do.
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“But I couldn’t have done much better today. I essentially missed two greens today in some 15mph winds.”
Spieth had not played competitively since winning the Travelers Championship on his last start three weeks ago by holing a bunker shot on the first hole of a play-off with Daniel Berger.
And Koepka had been inactive for a week longer since claiming his first major title in the US Open at Erin Hills, where his 16-under-par total equalled the tournament record set by Rory McIlroy in 2011.
“We had planned to take it off so it’s not a big deal,” said Koepka, who is trying to become the first person since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and Open in the same year. Only Woods, Bobby Jones (twice), Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson have achieved the feat.
“It felt like I’d been playing well and links golf just takes a creative mind. Sometimes golf can get a bit boring but I see so many shots out here that are fun that it really gets me going.”
Nine years after finishing second to Padraig Harrington at Birkdale, Poulter had earlier made the ideal start in his bid to go one better at the same Southport venue.
The 41-year-old, who had to come through final qualifying to avoid missing a sixth major in succession, carded a three-under-par 67 to record his lowest ever opening round in a major at the 54th attempt.
“Birkdale nine years ago felt pretty good on Sunday afternoon and it felt just as good today,” said Poulter, who did television commentary on the Open last year after being sidelined with a foot injury.
“I played really well. A couple of putts slipped by the edge but it adds up to a decent score so I’m pretty happy.”
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