The Open: Oosthuizen in major contention once again as Spieth lurks

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South African Oosthuizen, who claimed the Claret Jug in 2010, shot a blemish-free 64 to sit one stroke ahead of 2017 winner Spieth, who has Brian Harman for company on five under.

Oosthuizen outshone his playing partners in a headline-grabbing trio featuring reigning champion Shane Lowry and pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm.

A host of players are within three shots of the summit at Royal St George’s, including major winners Justin Rose and Danny Willett, along with 2009 champion Stewart Cink.

Lowry’s hopes of becoming the first player to successfully defend the title at the Sandwich links since Harry Vardon in 1899 suffered a setback following an opening 71, with U.S. Open champion Rahm matching that effort.

While Oosthuizen holds a narrow advantage, it is three-time major winner Spieth who has the omens on his side, having been drawn in the same group as Branden Grace.

Oosthuizen’s compatriot has featured alongside the eventual winner in the opening two rounds of each of the last two editions of golf’s oldest major.

World number one Dustin Johnson is poised to make a move after a two-under-par 68, with Sergio Garcia signing for the same score.

Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut on home soil at Royal Portrush two years ago, closed with a birdie to card an even-par 70.

SHOT OF DAY

It was not the most technically brilliant strike of the ball, but the nerves involved in Richard Bland’s opening tee shot made it a triumph of coolness under pressure.

The Englishman won his first European Tour title at the 478th attempt at the British Masters in May and had the honour in Kent on Thursday.

He managed to keep the ball on the fairway with a drive that was slightly left, but safe nonetheless.

CHIPPING IN

Louis Oosthuizen: “[That was] probably in my mind the perfect round I could have played. I didn’t make many mistakes. When I had good opportunities for birdie, I made the putts.”

Richard Bland: “It was very special, very nerve-racking. The nerves definitely cranked up a little bit and I was glad to hit one in the fairway.”

Shane Lowry: “It’s so good to have the crowds here and it’s so good to be playing in the Open Championship like we know. The big grandstands and the big crowds and getting clapped on the grandstands and on the tees, that’s pretty cool.”

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME…

– Louis Oosthuizen’s 64 is his lowest score at a major.

– Rory McIlroy started an Open with a birdie for the first time, with this the Northern Irishman’s 12th entry into the tournament.

– The 15th hole proved the toughest to tame on Thursday, the par four playing at an average of 4.37.

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