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Tommy Fleetwood sets pace, Rory McIlroy battles and 18th bamboozles

The 151st Open Championship leaderboard

-5 T Fleetwood (Eng), C Lamprecht (SA)*, E Grillo (Arg); -4 A Rozner (France), A Otaegui (Spa), B Harman (US)

Selected: -3 W Clark (US); -2 M Jordan (Eng), J Spieth (US); -1 S Scheffler (US), R Bland (Eng); Level R McIlroy (NI), T Hatton (Eng); +1 C Smith (Aus); +3 R MacIntyre (Sco), O Farr (Wal), J Rahm (Spa), J Rose (Eng)

Full leaderboard

Tommy Fleetwood raised hopes of a first English winner of The Open in 31 years with a superb five-under-par 66 on the opening day at Royal Liverpool.

He ended round one as joint leader with South African amateur Christo Lamprecht and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.

They are one clear of France’s Antoine Rozner, Adrian Otaegui of Spain and American Brian Harman.

Northern Ireland’s world number two Rory McIlroy had three birdies and three bogeys in a battling 71.

Not since Nick Faldo won his third Claret Jug at Muirfield in 1992 has an Englishman been crowned champion golfer of the year. The last player to win on English soil was Tony Jacklin in 1969 at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

You could therefore understand the roars of delight as success starved fans celebrated Fleetwood’s run of three successive birdies from the 14th and his solid four-foot par putt on the last.

The 32-year-old, who hails from 30 miles up the Merseyside coast in Southport, has a best finish of second in 2019 and was joint fourth last year as his quest for a first major title continues.

Fleetwood scorched round the back nine in just 32 shots, easily attracting the biggest following of the early starters on the Wirral coast.

“It’s such a special opportunity to play so close to home and I’m glad I gave them some good golf to watch,” he said.

“You can’t ask for more from the fans. They were so great to me.”

Fleetwood was playing with world number one Scottie Scheffler, who birdied the last to record a one-under 70, and Australian Adam Scott, who had a double-bogey seven to end one over.

And just as Fleetwood holed his final putt, McIlroy, playing with number three ranked Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, was giving his young daughter a hug before walking to the first tee.

McIlroy makes ‘solid start’

McIlroy birdied the second but, as the wind picked up a little in the afternoon, bogeys on the fourth, eighth and 12th holes quietened both his trademark bouncy walk and the Hoylake crowd.

However, a 41-foot birdie putt on the 14th ignited the fans and McIlroy followed that with another on the par-five 15th to get back to level par.

A final scrambled par down the last, after taking two to escape from a greenside bunker, saw him finish level, three better than both Rahm and Rose.

“It was tricky out there,” he said. “The wind was blowing a bit and it was hard to get close to some pins. Even par is a solid start.”

On leaving a shot in the bunker on the last, he said: “I actually got lucky because that could have gone into the deeper part of my footprint and I might have been there all night. It was great to get away with a five.”

Wyndham Clark, who held off McIlroy to win the US Open last month, birdied the last to join 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink, fellow American Max Homa, Sweden’s Alex Noren and Shubhankar Sharma of India on three under.

Clark was playing with defending champion Cameron Smith – who had “one of those up-and-down days” as he opened with a one-over 72 – and Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele, who shot a 70.

The 18th throws up surprise scores

Much had been written in the run-up to the Championship about the new par-three 17th and its upturned saucer green with penal bunkers, but it was the par-five 18th which had the biggest spread of scores, with everything from an eagle three to a quintuple-bogey 10.

American Rickie Fowler, who recently ended a four-year winning drought on the PGA Tour, twice hit out of bounds as he carded an eight to finish one over par. Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson also had an eight, after a double-bogey on the 17th, to finish seven over.

And two-time major winner Justin Thomas, who was seven over when he teed off, walked off with a nine and 11-over total.

But spare a thought for Hong Kong’s Taichi Kho who followed a birdie two on the 17th with a 10 on the last, despite being nine yards from the hole after two shots. Several swipes in a bunker followed before he signed for the day’s worst score, a 12-over 83.

Jordan delights early risers

Hundreds of fans streamed through the gates at 06:00 BST to watch local favorite Matthew Jordan, who was on the Royal Liverpool chipping greens aged three before following his father and grandfather in becoming a member at the age of seven.

At 06:35 precisely the 27-year-old hit the opening tee shot of the championship to huge cheers, his mum Laura telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “That was amazing. He’s dreamed of this since he was a little boy, playing this course with his dad.”

And after signing for a two-under 69, he said the experience had been “amazing,” adding: “I’m running out of words to describe it. It was crazy, loud, everything that I could have wished for.

“I’m trying to think of a better experience than that, and I don’t think I can.”