Day open to Birkdale's tough conditions

Day open to Birkdale's tough conditions

This magnificent course is said to be one of the truest tests of links golf with fairways weaving through imposing sand dunes that tower over the course and unrelenting wind blowing from the Irish Sea. "You can certainly make up ground, in a round like tomorrow, and we'll see it happen, but being able to kind of play with shots or play a little more conservatively, you make a bogey, because you don't try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that's nice and very helpful". Follow along for live coverage on Golf Channel and NBC as the best in the world compete for the coveted Claret Jug. I saw some really good putts going in.

Spieth's two major victories came in 2015 at the U.S. Masters and U.S. Open.

Another excellent approach shot to the centre of the 18th green and a confident 12-foot birdie putt then completed the turnaround for McIlroy as he came home in four-under 32. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk. "Just not as much belief in myself as I should have had", said the 28-year-old, who won the tournament in 2014.

Matt Kuchar (71) is Spieth's closest challenger while the resurgent Ian Poulter ground out 16 pars in a 70 which earned him a share of third with Brooks Koepka (72), with Scotland's Richie Ramsay also in contention on two under par. Nine years ago, Casey finished T7 at the Open, and that week at Royal Birkdale started with a 78.

Alfie Plant was the only amateur to make the cut, guaranteeing him the silver medal, but Padraig Harrington - who triumphed when the tournament was last at Birkdale in 2008 - missed out by one shot.

"I would have gladly stayed on the couch", he said.

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Wet, cool and breezy conditions, and enthusiastic crowds, greeted the first group of players to go out at 6:35am. Just as important, there are only five players between the former No. 1 and the lead.

"I am ecstatic", the 28-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

"And I'll be feeling it this weekend a bit".

"I think that's one of the cool things over here, whether it's Thursday or Friday, whatever your morning round is, getting to go back to the room, put on the TV and watch the guys play in the afternoon, and particularly in tough conditions", said Kuchar, his cheeks reddened after being lashed by the wind all morning. "Because you're like, I can't shoot those scores".

Koepka and Spieth, specifically, seem primed to contend this week, and there's a group of players right behind that could also find themselves in the mix on Sunday.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson missed the cut after a triple bogey on the par-four third made life hard for the left-hander, who shot 77. He finished top-six in the French, Irish and Scottish Opens during the past three weeks, but he will have the weekend off if he can not fix his tee box woes - he hit just two of 14 fairways on Thursday.

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