A local boy, an amateur South African skyscraper and a tough Argentine share the lead after the first round of the 2023 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Georgia Tech’s Christo Lambrecht was the first to bowl a 5-under 66 in Hoylake England, and became the first amateur since Tom Lewis in 2011 to lead past the first 18 of the Open. Joining the All-American team, 6-foot-8 Tommy Fleetwood moments later is a man very familiar with the main stage whose home ground is just 30 minutes outside of Liverpool.
Those two looked like they were alone at the top until Emiliano Grillo jumped the fast lane and played the last 14 holes on the 7-under to join them at 5-under, one shot clear of the course.
While Lamprecht makes for a great story and Grillo could provide intrigue if he continues heading into the weekend, all eyes are rightly falling on Fleetwood. With the nation’s winds in his sails, the Englishman is looking to carry the momentum from his final round 63 at the US Open and his previous Grand Slam calls into immortality.
“It was absolutely amazing, and you couldn’t ask for more fans and support,” said Fleetwood. They were so great to me today…from the first putt onwards throughout the round, the way they were on the last hole there, and the reception I had. This is a special opportunity to play close to home, but get that support and play an open championship, glad I gave them some good golf to watch. … So, it’s great to step onto the golf course and get that kind of support. “
Fleetwood will have to wait until the afternoon hours on Friday – late pole times proved difficult to hit a one-stroke on Thursday – to either build on it or get it back. However, for Fleetwood, one of the hardest parts has come to an end.
A player who shines through the weekend in the major leagues but rarely from a non-threatening position, he’s now in the driver’s seat for the Claret Jug. He previously competed in a pair of US Opens and the 2019 Open only to fall short on all three times. If he’s able to stay on the first page of the leaderboard going into the weekend, the next step could be as simple as marrying past weekend’s tournaments with his past shortcomings. It won’t be an easy task as there are a few major heroes behind them, but Fleetwood feels right at home and more comfortable than ever.
2023 Open Championship leaderboard, first round
T1. Tommy Fleetwood, Christo Lambrecht, Emiliano Grillo (-5): Fleetwood is the The trio’s name is at the top, but in reality Grillo is the only PGA Tour winner in the group. A Colonial winner two months ago, the two-time PGA Tour winner is not short of confidence or finesse in hitting the ball. Grillo will need the putter to continue collaborating as he gained more than his flat putt on Thursday, one of professional golf’s most underrated.
“The four majors are the things we want most,” Grillo said. “Everybody’s here with the same goal. Everyone’s here to do the same, play the best and lift the Clarett Cup on Sunday. That’s kind of the goal.”
T4. Brian Harman, Antoine Rosner, Adrian Otegui (-4)
T7. Wyndham Clark, Max Homma, Alex Noreen, Stuart Sink, Shupankar Sharma (-3): The US Open champion opened his tournament with a nine-season run before two birdies to start at halfback. Although there were four birdies in the second-nine, it was a bogey rescue at the fourteenth that kept Clarke’s momentum going. After he hits a volunteer’s iPad and finds a bad lie, Clark does well to drop just one. On the road for six straight weeks, Clark would love nothing more than to return to the States with another major, lock up player of the year and a member of the truly exclusive company of those who won the US Open and Open in the same year.
“I have no fear of it,” Clark said of competing in the Major again. “I welcome that. But it’s just one day. I got three more days. I think the minute I start thinking about the future. These things might happen. I’ll just focus on each day and focus on my goals and process and let the results take care of themselves.”
T12. Jordan Spieth, Se Woo Kim, Aleksander Bjork, Matthew Jordan, Guido Migliuzzi, Michael Stewart (-2): The 2017 champ came into the week after missing three out of four cuts including two in a row in the national opener. Two early putts were immediately squandered when one was hit off the backyard at No. 8 resulting in a missing ball and a double bogey. He did a good job playing his back nine at 2-under, but could have done better when he hit the tee shot by 5 at 3-under before dropping a putt.
“I felt like I played a lot of green,” said Spieth. “This course reminds me of Birkdale in that a lot of it comes from the air in the approach shots. There’s more table tops here which makes it more challenging, but not a lot of old school links or I don’t know what to call it but where you can run the ball. You can’t do that much here.”
T18. Scotty Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Victor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele and seven others (-1): There are a bunch of heavy hitters at 1 under, and the scary part is that none of them had their best in the first round. Koepka looked like he had just gotten out of bed and was 2-10 before playing his last eight holes on the par 3 to get to the red shapes. Meanwhile, the world No. 1 surrounded a poor middle part of his tour with a solid start and a good finish. Cantlay finally seems to be in the mix at a major tournament, and both Matsuyama and Reed have proven their mettle on this stage. Hovland caught fire late on, but he didn’t capitalize on the Par 5 all day. One, if not more, will come out of the pack because they are only four strokes back and in the heart of this tournament.
“Just a sloppy on the front,” Koepka said. “The first nine holes I didn’t feel like I hit any good shots, but it’s one of those things you have to find as you go. [I’m] Not real [happy with the score]. I mean, 1-under is, what, four is back now with the results of the afternoon still remaining. Good ways to come back, but I can’t do anything.”
T32. Rory McIlroy, Terrell Hatton, Min Woo Lee and 12 others (English): The good news for McIlroy is that he is not out of this tournament as 50 of the 52 winners were within five after the first round. Back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 brought him back to par before a moment reversed his final hole in the first round of the US Open. Leaving his third at his feet after his ball came to rest on the edge of the Greenside bowl dugout, McIlroy blew his fourth to 10 feet. He shifted, kept his footing and gave an emphatic fist pump while the Hoylake faithful cheered. He should capitalize on that momentum in a quick start early Friday if he’s going to threaten for the No. 5 Pioneer.
T47. Cameron Smith, Matt Fitzpatrick, Jason Day, Adam Scott and 14 others (+1): An opening birdie gave notice to the course that the reigning champion golfer of the year was not going quietly into the night. Smith would turn 1 under the tee before a three bogey back caused his inaccuracy to come off the tee. The Australian will need to be better with the driver in hand, but if he is, the rest of the game looks solid enough to run. He is still the best putter on the planet, and had it not been for that club on Thursday, Smith would have been out of this tournament.
“I don’t think it’s going to be quite as much of a bird festival as it was last year, and maybe that’s a good thing for me and other people who are just more than that,” Smith said. “Just a few good rounds to get right back into. I don’t feel like I’m out of the championship.”
T62. Colin Morikawa, Tony Finau, Sam Burns and 21 others (+2)
T89. Dustin Johnson, Bryson Dechambeau, John Rahm, Justin Rose, Tom Kim and 16 others (+3)
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