Leader Kisner convinced he can stay the course as challengers lurk
Kevin Kisner might be a surprise name at the top of The Open leaderboard but the American insists he can stay there until Sunday night.
Kisner made the most of the favourable conditions for morning starters with a five-under par round of 66 to lead by one from South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard and American Tony Finau.
An eagle at the sixth kick-started his round after a bogey at the fifth, and he went on a birdie spree down the back nine – sinking putts at 13, 14 and 15.
Taking the lead is one thing and holding it is quite another, with the likes of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods all within striking distance.
Yet Kisner is confident he can stay in the mix for the Claret Jug and a first major title.
“Well, I certainly would like to and hope I can. If you don't believe in yourself out here, you're going to get run over pretty quickly,” he said.
“So I'm pretty sure everybody has a lot of self-belief, or we wouldn't be doing it.
“The golf course is great for me. The conditions have been fine. Going forward, you never know what you're going to have in Scotland.
“I know the rain is coming in but I don't think the rain is going to affect how the golf course is playing in one day, but I have to just keep doing what I'm doing.
“If I have 22 putts the next three days, I bet I'll have a pretty good shot.”
Kisner is staying in a house with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Justin Thomas for The Open – and got close to the Claret Jug when Spieth won it a year ago.
Now, he believes he has a chance to put the boot on the other foot.
“I spent a lot of time with Jordan and the Claret Jug,” he said.
“I flew home with him after he won. And then over to Paris with him. And I'm staying with him this week and he no longer has it.
“He gave it back on Monday. It would be cool to return the favour and let him look at it a little bit.”
Perennial contender on the charge
Finau has been in contention at both the previous majors this year – ultimately finishing tied for tenth at the Masters and fifth at the US Open.
And now within striking distance of Kisner a stroke back, he insists he has the game that is perfectly suited to major golf.
“It's nice to be in contention again in a major, the third one this year,” he said. “I enjoy playing in the big moments and my game and my mind fit championship golf and major championship golf.
“It's good to have good finishes – it gives me a lot of confidence and just a lot of peace to know I can play at a high level in these type of events.”
A South African wave
Van Rooyen and Lombard are part of a 12-man South African contingent this week, which includes Scottish Open winner Brandon Stone only one shot further back.
And Lombard claims the compatriots are spurring each other on.
“Us South Africans, we feed off each other's confidence,” he explained. “We're all good friends and it's nice seeing each other play well. Hopefully, we can motivate each other to get the win.”
JT stays in touch
Thomas is part of a dangerous-looking pack at two-under – which also includes 2014 Champion Golfer McIlroy, 2015 Champion Golfer Johnson and world No.5 Jon Rahm.
And the world No.2 is feeling relaxed, even though he’s in the same house as some of his rivals.
“It's fun,” said Thomas. “This is the third year that we've done it and it's always enjoyable. You get guys all different tee times, all different conditions.
“And the odds are going to be pretty strong of one of us at least having a chance to win, hopefully a couple. But it's always good fun.
“Two years ago we had an unbelievable backyard that we were playing backyard baseball in. This year we had some soccer goals.
“Who knows if we end up doing something, but we don't want to hurt ourselves. Just been enjoying each other's company.”
Top of the Day One leaderboard
1. Kevin Kisner -5
T2. Erik van Rooyen -4
T2. Tony Finau -4
T2. Zander Lombard -4
T5. Brandon Stone -3
T5. Ryan Moore -3
T5. Brendan Steele -3
T8. Matthew Southgate -2
T8. Danny Willett -2
T8. Sang Kung -2
T8. Pat Perez -2
T8. Jon Rahm -2
T8. Russell Henley -2
T8. Rory McIlroy -2
T8. Zach Johnson -2
T8. Justin Thomas -2
T8. Chaz Reavie -2
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