American Kevin Kisner took advantage of unusually gentle weather conditions and a hot putter to grab the early lead at the 2018 Open Championship with a 66 at Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland.
Kisner eagled the sixth hole and had four birdies. He saved par on each of the final three holes with putts of 10, 20 and 22 yards and needed 22 strokes of the short stick to navigate the links-style layout Thursday. Temperatures were in the 60s and wind was almost undetectable during the early tee times.
“Holed a long putt on six for eagle and that was kind of the theme of the day,” said Kisner. “I putted so badly at Greenbrier, so I’ve been working really hard on it since I got here. The ball started coming off on line and when that happens, I think I can hole every putt.”
Kisner, 34, hit the clubhouse with a one-shot lead over South Africans Erik Van Rooyen — who earned his ticket to The Open with a fourth-place finish at the Irish Open — and Zander Lombard. Lombard tied for sixth in Ireland and missed a birdie putt on 17 that would’ve been good for a share of the lead.
American Tony Finau made a long birdie to finish just as Tiger Woods opened his round, and reached 4-under par not long after to expand the group carding a first-round 67. Brandon Stone, also from South Africa, carded a 68.
“I hit a 423-yard 3-wood in a practice round to give you an idea of how far it will go,” said Finau, who tied for 10th at The Masters and was fifth at the U.S. Open. “I don’t think it’s coincidence. I’ve played some good golf in the big events. I think it has to do with my game. My attitude is a big part of it. I enjoy these type of moments. To put myself in contention in another major is pretty cool for me.”
Woods, who took the course dealing with neck pain wearing kinesiology after sleeping awkwardly, opened with a birdie.
In Kisner’s last six starts, he’s missed the cut three times and finished no better than 52nd.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth was through 11 holes at 3-under before the wheels came off, giving back four shots.
“The 15th hole is actually one of the easier holes on the golf course - I made double,” Spieth recounted. “I picked the wrong club on the second and it plugged into the face of a pot bunker. Kind of a bad break there. That 15th hole really hurt.”
Spieth estimated that as conditions change this week, 3-under might win the tournament.
“It couldn’t be any easier on the course for scoring and it was still that difficult. I know the scores will come back almost toward par as the week goes on,” he said.
“It’s definitely different than any of the Opens I’ve played, this is my sixth now,” Spieth said. “I’ve never stood on the tee and been more confused on what to hit day to day. The ball is just going forever. It kind of depends on which knob it lands on. It’s difficult to be playing the different spots. If you hit the fairways, you can get at these pins. If you play it a little riskier and end up in the fescue, even if it doesn’t look so bad, the ball doesn’t spin and you can’t get next to these pins.”
—Field Level Media