The first wave of scores are now being posted at Royal Birkdale and it does appear the opening round will not be as brutal as initially feared. It's not easy, of course, but we do have some rounds in the red. In the first hour there, it looked like everyone would be shooting 75 or worse on this ugly, windy, nasty day on the northwest coast of England.
This was an Open Championship, after all, that started with a tee ball rocketed out-of-bounds and a resultant snowman on the card of Mark O'Meara. But some of the earliest tee times are proving that there are rounds to be had out there, starting with Welshman Stuart Manley. You've probably never heard of Manley, who sounds like a made-up British name they'd write in a fictional script about The Open. He's 38 years old, a Euro journeyman with only a Challenge Tour win to his name, and he is playing in his first ever major championship. Manley is 2-under and in the Birkdale clubhouse with the early lead thanks to an eagle-birdie finish.
Manley is just part of a very British and Euro feel at the top of the leaderboard right now. Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, and Matthew Fitzpatrick, all Englishmen playing a home game of sorts, have been in the red, shifting back and forth around Manley's leading number. Poulter posted three birdies on his front nine and is even with Manley with some birdie chances at the par-5s ahead of him.
Jordan Spieth is the leading American, joining the lead at 2-under as he makes the turn at Birkdale. Spieth was getting a lot of hype in the final few days before the shots started counting, and he's delivered on that early, playing strategically around Birkdale and avoiding the big number. This has been Spieth's best ball striking year in his career, but his putting has not been up to his own standards. He's rolled it fine enough in the opening nine, pouring in a lengthy bender at the second for his first birdie of the week. The hype around this place suiting Spieth is only going to grow overnight if he hangs on coming through the back nine. Expect that to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the post-round analyses.
More low scores could be coming in the afternoon, as conditions are relenting a bit in Southport. O'Meara, the 1998 winner here, told the PGA Tour he would not be surprised if someone even got to 5-under on the day. So the late tee times may have that Open draw advantage we always hear about each year. Here are your scores: