Spieth The Open favorite after seizing share of lead in Round 1

Poulter and Spieth set early pace at Open in winds and rain of Royal Birkdale

His odds to become Open champion for a second time in four years reflect that,
having tumbled from around 400-1 to 4-1 on the back of an astonishing turnaround at Royal Birkdale.

"It wasn't a great feeling knowing we were coming into something harder than what we were watching", he said.

With a short game as sharp as it has been all year, and a 3-wood that turned out a lot better than it looked and led to an eagle, Spieth seized control with a 1-under 69 that gave him a two-shot lead over Matt Kuchar going into the weekend. "And I felt that out there today, just because of the lack of self-belief I had going out".

That showed, as McIlroy twirled a club on the 17th hole after hitting a long iron to the green.

I like the golf course, it's very cool. "I hit it low off the heel, which is easy to do when you're trying to carve a cut". Seemed like the later your tee time, the better draw you got.

World No. 3 Spieth, though, thinks the traditional Open weather lottery could discount half the field straight away. Kuchar has yet to win a major championship.

Spieth was at 6-under 134. He didn't start the next season until the Phoenix Open, and he won for his first PGA Tour title. The Open has been a major that favors experience in recent years (Rory's win in 2014 being an exception), and with a leaderboard that includes a couple young stars it wouldn't be surprising to see some fans rooting for the 39-year old to win his first major - at least stateside, the two Englishmen below are far more likely to win over the gallery at Royal Birkdale.

"Anytime you're in the last group on a weekend in a major. you get nervous".

"(I've) just got to be patient with myself and understand that it's been a while since I've been in a position to contend other than the Byron Nelson this year. "But I enjoy it".

After shooting a superb 65 in round one to share the lead with Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar, the two-time major victor was fully aware that a sterner test was on the way, with gusting winds and heavy rain set to sweep in.

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QUOTEWORTHY: "Obviously, I'm not happy about it because I nearly screwed up my British Open". "Today is my day".

"I feel like I play better in worse weather", he said.

Shortly after McIlroy finished, Spieth set off.

The key to his round came in the middle, starting with a 10-foot par putt on No. 8 after he drove into a pot bunker.

But when he flew over to Royal Birkdale on Saturday, he was ready to go. And in a pre-tournament news conference at Birkdale on Tuesday, tee times were again at the forefront of his mind as he suggested around 50 per cent of the field could be ruled out of contention this week. "That chip-in was massive for par". "Nothing said "4" about this hole. And he definitely said the right thing yesterday when I needed it".

And he wasn't through just yet.

He made the par putt - Spieth made a lot of putts on picked up a two-putt birdie on the 17th and narrowly missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last. "But being able to kind of play with shots, or play a little more conservative because you don't try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that's nice and very helpful".

The Northern Irishman, victor of the Claret Jug at nearby Royal Liverpool in 2014 and a four-time major victor, recovered from a perilous five over after just six holes at Royal Birkdale to stage an impressive four-birdie recovery after the turn to card a one-over 71. We might be in the midst of one this week, and it's possible we have McIlroy's much-maligned caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, to thank for it. McIlroy confessed that Fitzgerald - after watching his boss look utterly lost at the start of the tournament - took a few seconds early in the round to remind him of something.

Rory McIlroy shot a 2-under-68 to get under par for the tournament and within five of the lead.

"To be in it after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that".



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