Trio lead American British Open charge

SOUTHPORT, England – Americans Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar tamed a fiendish course in tough conditions to fire sparkling first-round 65s and lead the British Open by one shot yesterday.

Spieth putted smoothly to pick up five birdies and did not drop a shot as fierce crosswinds buffeted the early starters at Royal Birkdale.

Koepka hit three successive birdies from the 11th hole before making his only bogey at the 16th. He chipped in from a pot bunker for an eagle at the par-five 17th to return to the top of the leaderboard and he put his success down to a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate his first major title.

Kuchar moved to five under at the turn and looked poised to open up a healthy lead as conditions improved in the afternoon but he parred each hole on the back nine to stay level with his compatriots. The trio finished a shot ahead of England’s Paul Casey and South African Charl Schwartzel.

England’s Ian Poulter, runner-up in the 2008 Open on this course, Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Americans Justin Thomas and Charley Hoffman were among a group of players a stroke further back following rounds of 67.World number two Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, South Africa’s twice British Open winner Ernie Els and American Bubba Watson carded two-under-par 68s.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden stayed in contention with a 69 while world number one Dustin Johnson of the United States and four-times major winner Rory McIlroy battled to one-over 71s.

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