St Andrews (Scotland): Jordan Spieth stumbled on the infamous Road Hole on the 17th but Dustin Johnson cruised like a well-oiled machine in benign weather when there was not a whisper from the winds on the opening day of the 144th Open Championships at the Old Course.
USA Dustin Johnson (left) and compatriot Jordan Spieth wait on the 18th green during their first rounds, on the opening day of the British Open Golf Championships at St Andrews, Scotland yesterday. Pic/AFP
One fine day
Johnson ended his day with a bogey free seven-under 65, equaling his best ever start in a Major, while Spieth after reaching six-under at 11th, finished at five-under with seven birdies and two bogeys.
Johnson's 65 was two shots off Rory Mcilroy's 63, the best-ever opening round at the Open, which also came at St Andrews in 2010.
It was also Johnson's second successive Major in which he opened with a 65 — he did the same at US Open last month. He has a stellar record at the Open, finishing outside Top-14 only once in last five starts, including second in 2011.
Reminiscent of their great final round US Open battle, where Spieth pipped Johnson at the post, the two were paired together again.
Johnson showing no ill-effects of the three-putt on the 72nd, which cost him the US Open was four-under by the fifth with two birdies and an eagle on par-5 fifth. He turned in five-under and did not falter as he added birdies on 10th and par-5 14th and through the first day he stayed out of the bunkers.
Birdies for Spieth
Spieth was off the blocks with birdies on first two holes and turned in five-under as both stars fed off each other with amazing golf in excellent conditions and stayed off the bunkers.
Spieth dropped his first shot on par-4 13th and then another on the 17th, when he finally went into Hell Bunker. But the 21-year-old Texan, winner of Masters and US Open quickly made up with a 20-foot birdie on 18th for a 67.
Before Johnson and Spieth came out for their battle, Sweden's David Lingmeth shocked everyone by slotting birdies on first four holes and turning in seven-under 29, before evaporating to three-under 69 with three bogeys, a double on Road Hole and a closing birdie.
Little-heralded Robert Streb, who played his maiden Major at the Masters this year, shot six-under 66 with seven birdies and one bogey and was lying in a bunch for second.
Old warhorse 46-year-old South African Retief Goosen, who has two US Opens, came through a qualifier for his first Open appearance since 2012, and turned the clock back with a 66.
Another 46-year-old, this one a Scotsman Paul Lawrie, winner in 1999 Open, also carded 66. At the Champions Golfer's Challenge playing for Arnold Palmer's team, Lawrie holed once from the fairway and then buried a 20-foot putt to win the four-hole charity event.
But one man, who struggled in perfect scoring conditions Tiger Woods, who signed for his worst round as a professional at St. Andrews with a 4-over 76. His start was ominous as he hit his second shot, a wedge into the burn that runs in front of the first green and then went on to make five bogeys.
His only birdie of the day came on par-5 14th. On the second day his priority will be to survive the cut after winning the Claret Jug at the Old Course in 2000 and 2005.