Kisner leads Open Championship as Spieth starts poorly

Kevin Kisner (Getty Images)
Kevin Kisner (Getty Images)

Carnoustie - Kevin Kisner of the United States leads the way after the first round of The Open on Thursday, but Rory McIlroy is one of the big names who got their bid for the Claret Jug off to an encouraging start at Carnoustie.

Kisner went out in one of the first groups just before 08:00 local time, yet his five-under-par round of 66 was not beaten all day as reigning champion Jordan Spieth and other big names struggled to properly get to grips with the Scottish links.

That means Kisner is a shot clear at the top of the leaderboard.

"The golf course is great for me," said the 34-year-old, who led going into the final round of last year's PGA Championship before finishing tied for seventh.

"Going forward, you never know what you're going to have in Scotland. I know the rain is coming in tomorrow," added Kisner, who is sharing a house with Spieth and several other US stars this week.

Kisner had an eagle and four birdies in his round on a perfect summer's day on Scotland's east coast, and he leads from compatriot Tony Finau and the South African duo of Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard, who all went round in 67.

Another South African, Brandon Stone, joined American pair Ryan Moore and Brendan Steele in shooting a three-under 68, while McIlroy lurks ominously after a two-under-par round of 69.

Back at the course where he was the best amateur as a fresh-faced teenager the last time The Open came here in 2007, the Northern Irishman adopted an attack-minded approach and had just one dropped shot all day, at the par-four fifth hole.

"I got away with some tee shots, but at the same time, I think that's what I have to do. That's my game plan this week. I'm convinced that that's the way that I should play it. It's not going to be for everyone, but it worked out pretty well today," said McIlroy, who is looking to end a four-year major drought here.

McIlroy will be one of the earliest starters on Friday, going out at 8:52, a full five hours before Kisner begins his round.

PGA champion Justin Thomas and Zach Johnson, the 2015 Open champion, are also two-under, along with former Masters champion Danny Willett and Spain's Jon Rahm.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods was not discouraged as he began his bid to finally land another major by shooting a level-par round of 71.

Now 42, Woods is being tipped by many to contend for the Claret Jug here, 10 years after he last won a major at the US Open.

Woods reached the turn two-under but, hindered by a neck problem, he dropped three shots in an often erratic back nine and has work to do on Friday.

"I got off to a great start. I birdied one and birdied four, and I was right there," he said.

"I had an 8-iron to six and was looking like I could really do something here. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out that way, but part of this afternoon wave, I was one of the lower rounds."

Americans have won the last five majors, including Spieth's victory at Royal Birkdale 12 months ago. However, his defence of the trophy did not get off to the best start, as a poor finish to his first round saw him conclude the day one-over after a 72.

He went to the 15th tee three-under, only to drop three shots on the next two holes. He then drove into the Barry Burn on the 18th -- scene of Frenchman Jean Van de Velde's infamous final-day meltdown in 1999 -- and ended with another bogey.

"It felt like a missed opportunity. I felt like I was really going well," said the Texan, who hopes that a turn for the worse in the weather forecast for Friday will spark an upturn in his fortunes.

"I think I'm certainly in a recoverable situation. I mean, I imagine this is as easy as the course could play."

As the prolonged summer heatwave continued on Scotland's North Sea coast, world number one Dustin Johnson was one of those who had an afternoon to forget.

He shot a five-over-par 76 and faces a struggle to make the weekend, with weather conditions set to deteriorate on Friday.

First round scores from the Open Championship on Thursday at Carnoustie (GBR & IRL unless stated, par 71, x denotes amateur):

66 - Kevin Kisner (USA)

67 - Tony Finau (USA), Zander Lombard (RSA), Erik Van Rooyen (RSA)

68 - Brendan Steele (USA), Brandon Stone (RSA), Ryan Moore (USA)

69 - Pat Perez (USA), Zach Johnson (USA), Sung Kang (KOR), Danny Willett, Matthew Southgate, Chez Reavie (USA), Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas (USA), Jon Rahm (ESP), Russell Henley (USA)

70 - Francesco Molinari (ITA), Luke List (USA), Chris Wood, Alex Noren (SWE), Matt Kuchar (USA), Patrick Cantlay (USA), Kevin Chappell (USA), Webb Simpson (USA), Kevin Na (USA), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Yuta Ikeda (JPN), Rickie Fowler (USA), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Thomas Pieters (BEL)

71 - Abraham Ancer (MEX), Tiger Woods (USA), Charley Hoffman (USA), Gary Woodland (USA), Martin Kaymer (GER), Kim Si-woo (KOR), Paul Dunne, Eddie Pepperell, Yusaku Miyazato (JPN), Sean Crocker (USA), Jason Day (AUS), Xander Schauffele (USA), Adam Scott (AUS), Brian Harman (USA), Cameron Davis (AUS), Li Haotong (CHN), Andy Sullivan, Dylan Frittelli (RSA)

72 - Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR), Satoshi Kodaira (JPN), Jason Kokrak (USA), Alexander Bjork (SWE), Austin Cook (USA), Jorge Campillo (ESP), Ryuko Tokimatsu (JPN), Justin Rose, Marc Leishman (AUS), Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker (USA), Nicolai Hojgaard (x) (DEN), Gavin Green (MAS), Lee Westwood, Jordan Spieth (USA), Kyle Stanley (USA), Stewart Cink (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Sam Locke (x), Brooks Koepka (USA), Haraldur Magnus (ISL), Matthew Fitzpatrick

73 - An Byeong-hun (KOR), Michael Hendry (NZL), Adam Hadwin (CAN), Daniel Berger (USA), Ernie Els (RSA), Bernhard Langer (GER), Beau Hossler (USA), Chesson Hadley (USA), Shubhankar Sharma (IND), Phil Mickelson (USA), Lucas Herbert (AUS), Cameron Smith (AUS), Mark Calcavecchia (USA), Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Michael Kim (USA), Russell Knox, Alexander Levy (FRA)

74 - Brett Rumford (AUS), Bronson Burgoon (USA), Jordan Smith, Jazz Janewattanamond (THA), Marcus Kinhult (SWE), Matt Wallace, Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Retief Goosen (RSA), Shaun Norris (RSA), Branden Grace (RSA), Rhys Enoch, Kelly Kraft (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Julian Suri (USA), Peter Uihlein (USA), Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP)

75 - Matt Jones (AUS), Ryan Armour (USA), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson, Bubba Watson (USA), Tom Lehman (USA), Todd Hamilton (USA), George Coetzee (RSA), Charles Howell III (USA), Scott Jamieson, Hideto Tanihara (JPN), James Robinson, Tom Lewis, Sergio Garcia (ESP), Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Sandy Lyle, Patrick Reed (USA)

76 - Park Sang-hyun (KOR), Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Dustin Johnson (USA), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Anirban Lahiri (IND), Jens Dantorp (SWE), Padraig Harrington

77 - Masahiro Kawamura (JPN), Shota Akiyoshi (JPN), Patton Kizzire (USA), Jonas Blixt (SWE)

78 - Kodai Ichihara (JPN), Ash Turner, Danthai Boonma (THA)

79 - Jack Senior, Jovan Rebula (RSA x), Choi Min-chel (KOR), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Brady Schnell (USA)

80 - Marcus Armitage, Lin Yuxin Lin (CHN x), Andrew Landry (USA), Grant Forrest, David Duval (USA)

82 - Thomas Curtis, Masanori Kobayashi (JPN), Darren Clarke

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