Jordan Spieth shot an opening-round 65 when he became Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Birkdale in 2017, so matching that score on day one at Royal St George’s bodes very well.
Spieth took a few holes to feel his way into The Open in Sandwich, making a bogey on the par-three 3rd, but from there he was flawless – making six birdies to post a five-under round of 65, one shot behind clubhouse leader Louis Oosthuizen after the morning starters.
And concerningly for his rivals, the American sees plenty of course similarities to Birkdale four years ago when he brilliantly outduelled Matt Kuchar on the final day to win by three strokes.
“Birkdale was a course that you played a lot from the air versus other Open venues,” explained Spieth. “You couldn't really bounce it up a ton there, and you really can't bounce it up a ton here.
“So it has similarities on that front, where it's more of an aerial links. You've got to flight the ball but you can't really get away with kind of punching five clubs extra up the entire green.
“I think if I had played any venue in 2017, I would have won that week. I mean, I was hitting it, at that time, the best I had maybe ever hit it in my life.
“Here I feel for the first time since then I'm at least coming in with a bit of form, a bit of confidence in my start lines off the tee, and I felt like I drove the ball well enough today to be able to shoot a really good score, and I'd like to improve.”
BEST FANS IN GOLF
Spieth also praised The Open’s fans for making his first round an incredibly enjoyable experience, with up to 32,000 spectators per day coming through the gates at Royal St George’s
“Teeing off inside the ropes on the first tee felt the most normal of any tournament we’ve played thus far in terms of being the same feel as pre-Covid,” he added.
“The fans are fantastic here – they’re the best in golf, very knowledgeable and you always know where your ball is even if it’s a blind shot.
“I may have a 5-iron into a hole and 20 feet is a fantastic shot, and they just know that because they've seen it all day and they're aware of how difficult shots are.
“They're also having a great time. Really the grandstands, the amphitheatre settings at this tournament are a lot of what I'm talking about. It's just a beautiful setting, shaping a lot of the holes with people.”
AMAZING GRACE COINCIDENCE
Spieth fans who believe in omens will also be buoyed by the fact he’s paired with Branden Grace for the first two rounds – the South African have played with the eventual Champion Golfer on Thursday and Friday in both 2018 and 2019.
And while Spieth wasn’t reading too much into that coincidence, he did joke that it makes his chances of lifting a second Claret Jug much higher.
“I have to beat 150-something players to win this tournament, so I think that's coincidence,” smiled the 27-year-old.
“I would certainly like that though. It would be a 50/50 shot then, so that would make my chances go way up versus 1 in 150!”
HARMAN LAYS DOWN A MARKER
Spieth wasn’t the only American to post an opening-day 65 at Royal St George’s as Brian Harman also got himself to five under.
It was a seven-birdie, two-bogey rollercoaster of a round for the 34-year-old and he admits he was spurred on by playing in a three-ball alongside Mackenzie Hughes and Dylan Frittelli, who both posted four-under 66s.
“For me, it's always been hard to see putts going in over here [in the UK], so to have some guys that were making some and playing well certainly helps out,” he explained.
“It was a fun day. I was glad to see those guys play well.
“You don't want to be playing catch-up in majors. I've definitely gotten burnt doing it a couple times.
“Like this year in the PGA, I kind of got behind the 8-ball for the first round and you start pressing, you start making some mistakes.
“I’m just going to try to keep going what I had going today and see what the course gives me.”