It was all expected; the bogeys, wide swings and getting down under bunkers. Well, that’s the charm of The Open, the most prestigious of all the four majors. A player requires great skills to match the expectations of fans here at Royal Birkdale, and Paul Casey was the name of the day. After a four-under 66, the British stands one off the pace set by the American trio, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar. Truly, Paul Casey owned round one of The Open.
Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, both on three-under are the others who join Casey in doing proud to their nation. On a day when Rory McIlroy had to stage a remarkably gutsy recovery just to shoot a one-over 71, the other three ensured they struck the iron while its hot. They used the conditions to their best and managed to stay on top of the leaderboard.
Casey was most valiant of them all. Out in 31, he recovered from a bogey at the 11th with birdies on the 16th and 17th and colored hues to make his birthday week a remarkable one. With a lead in round one, he could finally knock off that major that his talent long deserves.
There do exist two twin peaks Spieth and Koepka blocking his path, along with the perennial leaderboard stalker Kuchar. Both Spieth, 22, and Koepka, 27, ventured out in the more difficult morning conditions and looked equally impressive in gaining the upper hand against the elements.
Spieth, the two-time major champion, did not drop a shot, which is an achievement at any time here. Koepka, the US Open champion playing his first event after his Erin Hills glory, made only one blemish at the 16th and quickly followed that up with a holed bunker shot on the 17th for an eagle.
The duo have to be the joint favourites, but Kuchar will also be difficult to shake off. The 39-year-old was five-under after nine holes and with the more manageable inward half to follow, a 62 even seemed possible. Kuchar’s run dried up, however, meaning he had to settle for a share of the advantage over Casey and the South African Charl Schwartzel.
This intense tussle for the leaderboard sets the pace for the round two of The Open which tees off on Friday at 11:00 AM IST on DSport.