Sunday 23 October 2016

British Open 2015: Dustin Johnson leads way but Spieth well placed after day one

Phil Casey

Published 16/07/2015 | 16:01

USA's Jordan Spieth and USA Dustin Johnson (right) during day one of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews
USA's Jordan Spieth and USA Dustin Johnson (right) during day one of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews

Big-hitting American Dustin Johnson insists he is over his last major heartbreak but, despite taking the first-round lead at the Open, having Jordan Spieth in close pursuit will give him a constant reminder.

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Johnson fired a seven-under 65 at St Andrews for a one-stroke advantage over the field but his Chambers Bay tormentor is only two shots back as he chases a historic single-season grand slam.

Somewhat mischievously paired together by the R&A following their final-round tussle in the US Open, which saw Johnson three-putt the last green to hand Spieth his second major of the year, they matched each other virtually shot-for-shot over the first 12 holes.

They were tied at six under until Spieth, who is also the Masters champion, was the first to blink with a bogey at the 13th.

Johnson extended the gap to two with a birdie at the only par five on the back nine, the 14th, and produced important saves at the 16th and 17th.

Read more: "It's tough to watch my hero Tiger Woods like this" - Jason Day

Read more: 'I can always say I led the Open' - Ireland's Paul Dunne on dream start at St Andrews

His advantage over Spieth was stretched to three when his compatriot went into the Road hole bunker and subsequently missed a five-footer for par.

However, there was one last sting in the tail at the last - although not as painful as last month's 72nd-hole drama - when Spieth sank a curling 20ft birdie and Johnson saw his effort from a similar position roll across the face of the hole.

Such were the scoring conditions for the morning starters there were a host of players in the clubhouse at six under - another Chambers Bay combatant Jason Day, Robert Streb, Retief Goosen and 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie - with amateur Jordan Niebrugge, Kevin Na, 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel a further shot back with Spieth.

But the main focus was the enthralling contest between Johnson, who carded the day's only eagle with a brilliant approach to the 570-yard fifth, and Spieth.

Johnson said on Monday he had no hang-ups about his Chambers Bay near-miss and his opening round at the home of golf suggested as much.

"Nothing bad happened at Chambers Bay, so I wasn't disappointed, really," he said.

"I did everything I was supposed to. I couldn't control what the ball was doing on the greens there.

"There's really no bad feelings from that, only good. I played really well and then it carried over to today.

"Any time you shoot 65 it is very pleasing. I thought I played well today I made two key par puts on 16 and 17."

With all the focus on Spieth as he seeks to become the first man to win the first three majors of the year the 21-year-old was satisfied with the way he opened up, having arrived late on Monday following his trans-Atlantic flight after victory at the John Deere Classic.

"I am very pleased with the start. It was certainly nice to finish that way," he said.

"If Dustin keeps driving the way he is I'm going to have to be at my best to have a chance. He doesn't really play badly, ever."

Fellow American Zach Johnson, meanwhile, overtook Spieth on his way to six under through 10 holes to gain a share of second place.

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 winner at St Andrews, continued his return to form after his runners-up finish in the US Open with a 67 to move himself to five under.

He has not shot worse than 71 in his last 11 rounds on the Old Course and is a combined 48 under par for the historic links in that time.

At the other end of the scale 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, who twice won the Claret Jug on the Old Course, had his worst round as a professional in the Open at St Andrews.

His four-over 76 - which consisted of a solitary birdie at the 14th - was beaten only by the 78 he had as an amateur in his final round in 1995.

More to follow...

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