Published: Fri, July 21, 2017
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Mind games, Federer tips as British Open begins

Mind games, Federer tips as British Open begins

Jordan Spieth put a target on his back as the guy to beat at Royal Birkdale after his bogey-free, opening-round 5-under 65 got him to the top of the 2017 British Open leaderboard.

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.

Spieth, a two-time major champion, made the early running with birdies on the second, eighth and ninth holes.

Whereas Kuchar and Koepka turned in scorching nines - Kuchar shot 29 on the front, Koepka 32 on the back - Spieth was outstanding throughout with a 31 and 34.

It would have been better but for a missed birdie putt at the 18th, but Spieth was not complaining after ending a run that had seen him fail to break par in his last five opening rounds at a major. Most noticeable was a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker at the par-5 17th.

"It's a mind game that you play with yourself there", said Spieth, who is looking to add to his two breakthrough majors from 2015.

Sporting a tie and cardigan in a throwback to the days of Bobby Locke, fellow American US PGA star Justin Thomas also made his move with an eagle on 17 to join Poulter at three-under. For whatever reason, Spieth is the player fans love to knock. It can't be much worse than what we had in the second round previous year or it would be unplayable.

The 27-year-old was four under par through 13 holes before dropping a shot at the 16th.

The former Masters and U.S. Open champion was in form coming into the tournament, after winning the Travelers Championship in his last outing.

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But his best shot was with his feet in the sand.

Royal Birkdale has traditionally been one of the toughest courses in the British Open rotation. In the gusty drear of the morning and then the breezy sunshine of midday amid the rude crosswinds near the Irish Sea, they shot their 65s.

"I'm expecting something like that tomorrow" he said.

Here's some of the notable pairings and their tee times.

Local hope Tommy Fleetwood, who is in form and favoured to become the first British golfer to win the tournament on this course, tees off at 10:09 a.m. alongside Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Bryson DeChambeau also hit into the gorse. British Summer Time, when winds are forecasted to hit 25 miles per hour. The 2014 British Open victor started Thursday with a tailspin and ended with a club spin.

There have been back-to-back major winners - Mark O'Meara won the Masters and Open in 1998; and consecutive Open champions - Harrington won in 2007 and 2008, Tom Watson won his second straight Open at Birkdale in 1983, Lee Trevino won the first of two successive Opens at the course in 1971, as did Arnold Palmer in 1961.

In the same group, Ryan Moore took a double bogey and Chris Wood had to get up-and-down from 40 yards for a par.

Spieth's sublime round came on a day in which the field was averaging little more than 50 per cent of greens hit on a demanding layout not known for low scoring.

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