Kisner leads as McIlroy starts strong at The Open

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Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are all in the hunt as Kevin Kisner set the early pace at The Open. Keel Timmins wraps up day 1 from Carnoustie

What happened on Thursday at The Open?

Kevin Kisner’s five-under-par round of 66 was enough to set the early pace on what was a fairly calm opening day at Carnoustie.

The American’s bounce-back eagle at the par-5 sixth set the wheels in motion as Kisner went out in 34 and made three birdies in-a-row on the back-nine to take the clubhouse lead in the early wave.

But several big names are lurking, headed by Rory McIlroy who opened with a solid 69 to sit just three shots adrift.

The Northern Irishman – who’s going in search of his second Claret Jug this week – made just a solitary bogey alongside three birdies to sit well positioned.

Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are also right in the hunt having both matched McIlroy’s round.

The early signs were positive for Tiger Woods, who opened with a birdie and concluded the front-nine two-under to be under-par for the first time in a major since the 2013 PGA Championship.

But things started to unravel slightly on the back-nine with bogeys at the 10th, 13th and 15th. Woods scrambled well over the tough closing stretch of holes to open up his tournament with an even-par 71.

There were contrasting fortunes for the world No.1, Dustin Johnson, however. Johnson – who’s making his first start since the U.S. Open – laboured to a five-over 76 with a triple-bogey at the 18th.

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Talking point

It was the big discussion coming into the week: will the players be hitting driver at every opportunity? Or would meticulous plodding be the best course of action?

Rory McIlroy said he would be hitting driver a lot, and sure enough, he blasted his way around Carnoustie in 69 to sit just three shots adrift of the lead.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tiger Woods’ strategy was conservative – almost to the extreme.

Woods hit just one driver all day as he tried to play short of the majority of bunkers. It was a strategy that was clearly working in the early stages of his round as Woods got to two-under on the front-nine, but as the round progressed, Woods’ performance gradually started to deteriorate, perhaps as a result of the cautious approach.

Even on the par-5 14th, Woods opted for an iron off the tee which prevented him from reaching in two. He made a good par-save in the end, while his playing partners – Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama – made an eagle and a birdie.

In truth, Woods did well to hold on over the last few holes to shoot level-par.

Woods now sits five shots back after the first round. If he’s to make inroads over the next few days, he’ll likely need to play slightly more aggressive.

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