Sunday, 20 August, 2017

Brooks Koepka holes out from bunker for share of Open Championship lead

A greenkeeper mows the light rough round the edge of the 6th green during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale Southport England Wednesday Jordan Spieth comes to Royal Birkdale rested, ready, and reflective
Vera Richards | 24 July, 2017, 00:37

Kuchar dropped a shot at the second but then picked up his game spectacularly, with a chip in for a birdie at the third, when he seemed in danger of dropping another shot, and following up with another birdie at the par-three fourth, to grab the outright lead.

Jordan Spieth prepared for mind games, Justin Rose said he willl lean on tips gleaned from Roger Federer, Rory McIlroy says he's a good bet and Henrik Stenson is anxious about skydiving with the Claret Jug. Mark O'Meara, a victor at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot. A victory for either man this week would end the recent run of seven consecutive majors going to first-time major winners.

The flight of that 3-wood looked as ugly as the weather.

Spieth shot a 5-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with Brooks Koepka among the early starters.

"I felt like I played pretty well", said the US Open champion.

By 5:30 p.m. the rain was so heavy play had to be suspended to allow greenstaff to clear puddles on some greens.

Most of the early starters found conditions hard, with swirling winds and cold conditions.

"And it's nearly impossible to win in that circumstance".

However, there can be no doubting the class of a player who has already achieved so much at such a young age. There are scores that I've shot that were closer to par that were better given what I needed to do. So, nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down, play as well as you can, and see what happens after two days.

On the other hand, a favorable draw can add pressure to perform, he says.

The forecast for Thursday is mostly fine with winds gusting to 20-25 miles per hour in the afternoon, while Friday will be breezy in the morning with outbreaks of rain in the afternoon.

It's part of his drive to emulate some of the qualities of Federer, who he watched from the Royal Box win his record eighth title at Wimbledon last week.

"Honestly", he said, "right now I'm happy to be inside". "And I was only 35 feet from the hole".

"I made some key up-and-downs on the start of the back nine". I know I've been around a while, but I also feel like I'm in about the prime of my golfing career. And that might make things a lot more interesting on Sunday in the 146th Open. Spieth is the sole leader at a major for the first time since the third round of the Masters past year, when he was runner-up to Danny Willett. The biggest break came at No. 10, when the rain was pounding Royal Birkdale.

Defending champion Stenson, who beat Phil Mickelson in an epic final-day duel at Royal Troon previous year, has vowed to add skydiving to his Claret Jug escapades, which include taking the trophy jet-skiing, should he win again.

"It won't stop me from trying to win it, though". After a blustery day on Friday, the early players found the course to their liking, with lots of birdies on the board.

"Assuming decent, tough enough conditions, it's a tournament for experience".

The randomness of links golf, with wind typically in play on courses largely devoid of trees, makes The Open Championship a unique challenge for the world's top golfers. He won the Masters from start to finish in 2015 and was set to do it again a year later until blowing a five-shot lead with nine to play.

Koepka didn't bring his clubs during his two weeks in Vegas. "And it turned around for me, thankfully", he said.

"So much imagination that goes into it".

"I've been practicing out of uneven lies this entire week in preparation for a shot like that. It's a level playing field now, everybody has got the same conditions and we go out and try and play our best golf". "Over here you can run it up, you can fly it there, too, if you want".

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy misses a putt on the 6th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championship, at Royal Birkdale, Southport, England Thursday, July 20, 2017. "You have to be smart", he said. The beast of Birkdale stands in the way.

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