SANDWICH – The Latest on the British Open (all times local):
Brandt Snedeker had a 68 for his lowest start to a British Open since 2012. But it's the way he posted that number that was so astounding.
Snedeker was 1 over for his round with three holes to play when he nearly made a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th hole. He was even better on the 17th, holing out from the fairway for an eagle. Consecutive 2s on his card went a long way.
If it seems strange to see Snedeker at Royal St. George's, there's a reason. He is mired in a slump that has dropped him well out of the top 100 in the world for the first time in more than a decade. Off the course has been difficult. Snedeker has lost both parents since October, with his father dying of cancer in early June.
He qualified for the Open by reaching the Tour Championship in 2019. The R&A honored all players who would have been eligible had it been played last year.
Louis Oosthuizen is leading at 64, one ahead of Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman. None of the late starters are close to him at the moment. Phil Mickelson is 10 shots behind. The PGA champion is 4 over through seven holes.
Louis Oosthuizen is the clubhouse leader at the British Open and has a place in the record book at Royal St. George's.
Coming off two runner-up finishes in the last two majors, Oosthuizen took advantage of soft conditions on a links known for its crazy bounces. He shot a 6-under 64. That matches the lowest opening round of a British Open at Royal St. George's. Christy O'Connor Jr. had a 64 in the first round of 1981. O'Connor went on to tie for third.
Jordan Spieth is right behind with a 65. That's what he shot in the first round when he won at Royal Birkdale in 2017. Brian Harman also had a 65 on a day of low scoring. Stewart Cink was among those at 66.
The last two U.S. Open champions started at 71. One was Bryson DeChambeau. The other was Jon Rahm.
Jordan Spieth is making putts at a British Open in England.
Spieth ran off four straight birdies on the front nine at Royal St. George's. He added another one on the 15th hole to reach 4-under par for his round with three holes to go. Spieth won the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
One comical moment: John Wood, the former caddie, is working for the U.S. broadcast team. He says Spieth told him during his run of four birdies that it was just like Birkdale because he was making putts and Wood was watching him. Wood was caddying at Birkdale for Matt Kuchar in in the final round when Spieth finished birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par to win.
Spieth is just one example of players going low. Mackenzie Hughes, who contended at Torrey Pines last month, was at 5 under with four holes to play. There are already have been 14 scores posted under par, including Brooks Koepka. Surprise, surprise.
Bryson DeChambeau has spent much of the morning at Royal St. George's up to his knees in grass. He has done well to keep the damage to 2-over par through 10 holes.
This is the first time DeChambeau is playing links golf since he bulked up and put a big emphasis on power. It hasn't worked out for him at the British Open so far, with several tee shots well off line and in deep grass.
It's a wonder Jordan Spieth, playing alongside him, hasn't injured his shoulder from constantly pointing left and right to help marshals find the flight of DeChambeau's tee shots.
U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm is having troubles of his own. He hit the face of a pot bunker on his second shot at the par-4 ninth and made double bogey. He also is at 2 over.
The leaders in the clubhouse are Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Justin Harding at 3-under 67. On the course they are Brian Harman and Mackenzie Hughes at 4 under.
Andy Sullivan has set the early target at the British Open with a 3-under 67.
Sullivan was part of the English trio that was first to play Thursday morning at Royal St. George's, known as the first links course in England to hold golf's oldest championship.
He opened with a birdie. He closed with a birdie. His English playing partners also did well on a breezy morning off Sandwich Bay. Marcus Armitage opened with a 69. Richard Bland, who had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot, had a 70.
Scoring has been reasonable in the morning. Brian Harman can attest to that. The American left-hander opened with three straight birdies and was 4 under through six holes.
On the other side was defending Shane Lowry, who opened with two bogeys and was trying to steady himself.
Brian Harman has started the British Open as if he plans on staying for the week. The left-handed American has opened with three straight birdies on a breezy and beautiful morning at Royal St. George's.
Harman has missed the cut the last four times he has played the British Open.
Andy Sullivan was at 2 under with only three holes to play in the opening round.
Shane Lowry has begun his title defense from two years ago at Royal Portrush. He opened with two bogeys. Lowry is playing with Jon Rahm, who is trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods to win the British Open and U.S. Open in the same year.
Paul Casey has an impressive record at the majors this year and he's making an equally impressive start early in the first round at the British Open.
The No. 21-ranked Casey rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt at the third hole to add to his birdie at the first and was tied for the lead at 2 under with fellow Englishmen Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan.
Casey tied for seventh at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines last month and tied for fourth at the PGA Championship in May. He hasn’t won a major.
Nick Faldo was the last English winner of the British Open, at Muirfield in 1992. Not since Tony Jacklin in 1969 has an English player won the Open on home soil.
Under a blue sky and in front of a nearly full stand at the first tee, Richard Bland got the first British Open in two years under way at Royal St. George's.
The Englishman slightly lost his footing as he drove into the left rough and was laughing as he walked back to his caddie. He chipped out onto the green and made par.
Some 32,000 spectators are expected as golf's oldest championship makes its return after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus outbreak. It's the biggest golf crowd at a major since the pandemic.
Bland was out in an all-English first group containing Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage. Sullivan made birdie.
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