Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka both laid down serious markers at the Open Championship on Thursday, as they raced into the clubhouse lead courtesy of superb five-under-par 65s.
Spieth came into the event somewhat under the radar after a quiet season by his standards, but seized the initiative at Royal Birkdale with a stellar opening round.
The American didn’t drop a single shot on the challenging links course, picking up three birdies on the front nine and two more at the back.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2017
His fantastic short game came to the rescue whenever he found himself in a spot of bother, and had his eight-foot birdie attempt on the 18th found the cup instead of just sliding by, his round would have been even better.
As it is, he has emerged as one of the firm favourites for the title, with his fellow big guns knowing they will need something special to keep up with the two-time major winner’s pace.
Perhaps even more ominously, in-form US Open champion Koepka soon joined Spieth at the top of the leaderboard after a 65 of his own.
Winning consecutive majors is a real rarity, but Koepka – who has hardly put a foot wrong in recent months – has now given himself a real chance of doing just that thanks to his stellar opening round.
The 27-year-old was four under par through 13 holes before dropping a shot at the 16th. But a stunning eagle at the par-4 17th vaulted him into a share of the lead.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 20, 2017
It’s early days, but no doubt the odds on both Spieth and Koepka will have plummeted following their major statements of intent on the opening day at Birkdale.
The duo are currently two shots clear of Englishman Ian Poulter, who will certainly be pleased with his opening 67, and another American, Justin Thomas.
BMW PGA champion Alex Noren and World No 2 Hideki Matsuyama are three back after a pair of solid 68s.
At the other end of the leaderboard, there was a disastrous 78 for former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, and a 77 for South Korea’s Byeong Hun An.
The PGA Tour is at Bay Hill for this week’s AP Invitational, the event named after and – until recently – hosted by the great Arnold Palmer.