Sports

Spieth, Koepka, Kuchar lead American charge at British Open

Spieth, Koepka, Kuchar lead American charge at British Open

It is bunched at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the 146 Open and some of those names are ones you'd expect to be there.

Always beware when a world-renowned closer gets off to a fast start.

Spieth, world number three and twice major champion, putted smoothly to pick up five birdies and did not drop a shot after fierce crosswinds buffeted the early starters. "You still feel like you should be sleeping, and my body didn't feel very good", Stricker said. The first was for a double bogey, and the second for bogey. After winning at Erin Hills last month, Koepka never has to answer the questions again.

The two-time major victor, who won at the Travelers Championship last month, was particularly pleased with his composure and driving off the tee.

Kuchar was sensational on the front-nine, as he birdied 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9. Five birdies, 29 strokes, and plenty of instant buzz to Kuchar's opening salvo.

The two-times major victor led a star-spangled Yankee challenge after the first day at Royal Birkdale.

Spieth is looking forward to playing on Saturday with Kuchar, his Ryder Cup teammate.

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Casey, meanwhile, shot a 4-under 66.

Its feels like his time.

McIlroy, who was five over through six holes in Thursday's round, sits in a tie for sixth, five back from Spieth, with Richie Ramsay one of the outsiders in the mix at two under.

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.

So far this week, everything about the festivities at Royal Birkdale have epitomized that ideal. So to birdie three of the first six and give myself that little bit of a cushion to play with was nice.

Unknown Austin Connelly has a fantastic backstory that has golf enthusiasts scrambling for information on the 20-year-old who skipped out on college to turn pro, and his 67 became perhaps the most unlikely Hollywood script in recent major memory.

The signature hole on the front side is a left-to-right dog-leg that requires a precise drive and a long second shot to an elevated and well-contoured green protected by three bunkers at the front — two on the right and one on the left — and surrounded by dunes.

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And then there are those who finished on fire. He made par on the first seven holes but got hot with birdies on Nos.

After playing level-par for the bulk of the round, Manley stormed into the clubhouse with an eagle-birdie to finish at 68. Doubtful. Kuchar, for one, doesn't believe in those things.

How about an 11th for free?

Pádraig Harrington, the 2008 champion at Birkdale, made a courageous effort to hole a 20-yard pitch from off the green at the last to make the weekend, but the ball finished a couple of inches away from the cup.

The conditions were hard work not just for players and caddies, but spectators and media, too. Simply put, it's like nothing you'll see any other week in the largely cookie cutter world of tournament golf.

Want your voice heard? The second shot landed in a location where I could pop it up and if it ended up going 15 feet past the hole then it was going to be a good shot.

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