Louis Oosthuizen recaptured his Open class of 2010 to establish the lead after the first round at Royal St George's in Kent with a bewitching round of 64.
The 38-year-old South African enjoyed three birdies on the front nine and three on the back in an impeccable display of ball striking around Sandwich before getting up and down from 70 yards or so on the 18th hole to ensure he did not drop any shots from an unblemished Thursday.
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Watched by a crowd of 32,000 under UK government health guidelines, he is one clear of 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who enjoyed a 65 alongside fellow American Brian Harmon in warm and windy conditions in Kent.
The 149th Open Championship is the final major of the year with Oosthuizen bidding to add to his victory at St Andrews 11 years ago when he obliterated the field courtesy of a 16-under par total over 72 holes, seven clear of runner-up Lee Westwood.
“I didn't make many mistakes,” he said. “When I had good opportunities for birdie, I made the putts. So just a very good, solid round.
"On this course it's all about hitting the fairway. You're not going to be able to do much from the rough here, or the fairway bunkers.
Driving the ball good is key. If you aren't comfortable with a driver around this course, then don't be scared laying further back, as long as you can get in the fairway.
Oosthuizen has himself finished runner-up in six majors since his maiden Open victory including a share of second place behind Phil Mickelson at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in May.
Mickelson suffered the ignominy of carding an 80, the joint highest score of the day alongside Deyen Lawson of Australia included a double bogey at the last to share 155th place.
Rory McIlroy fought back majestically from falling to plus two at the 10th with four birdies in his round, including a three on the 18th hole, enough to see him sign for a level par 70.
Pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm – chasing a US Open and British Open double – also made birdie on the 18th hole to finish on 71, seven behind playing partner Oosthuizen, with defending champion Shane Lowry matching Rahm on plus one.
Spieth admits the challenge of links golf brings the best out of him after his rousing success at Royal Birkdale four years ago when he claimed the Claret Jug on 12 under, three clear of Ryder Cup colleague Matt Kuchar.
“It brings a lot of the feel aspect into the game,” said Spieth. “I shorten swings up over here, and hit more punch shots, and stuff that I probably should be doing at home. You get less swing-focused and more shot-focused over here because the second you take your brain off the shot you’re hitting, you may not find your ball.
“Instead of just a driving-range shot in Palm Springs, there’s always some shot you have to play that gives you a little bit of an advantage. Certain club selections, based on if you hit a fade or a draw, they go 15 or 20 yards different distances.
"To sum that up, there’s just a lot of external factors over here, and I think that external is where I need to be living.”
The Open leaderboard
- -6 Oosthuizen
- -5 Spieth, Harman
- -4 Hughes, Frittelli, Cink, Hebert, Simpson
The Open Championship: Friday's 2nd round tee times (BST)
- 06:35 Aaron Rai, Paul Waring, Daniel Croft
- 06:46 Daniel Van Tonder,Jazz Janewattananond, Christoffer Bring*
- 06:57 Harold Varner III, Brendan Steele, Matthias Schmid*
- 07:08 Troy Merritt, Adam Long, Jaco Ahlers
- 07:19 Jason Day, Joost Luiten, Johannes Veerman
- 07:30 John Catlin, Romain Langasque, Aaron Pike
- 07:41 Padraig Harrington, Brad Kennedy, Sam Forgan
- 07:52 Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Adam Hadwin
- 08:03 Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ryan Fox
- 08:14 Francesco Molinari, Marc Leishman, Matt Wallace
- 08:25 Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Sebastian Munoz
- 08:36 Jason Scrivener, Keith Mitchell, Sam Bairstow*
- 08:47 Charley Hoffman, Emiliano Grillo, Benjamin Hebert
- 09:03 Keegan Bradley, Richard T. Lee, Rafa Cabrera Bello
- 09:14 Carlos Ortiz, Brendon Todd, Matthias Schwab
- 09:25 Webb Simpson, Russell Henley, Shaun Norris
- 09:36 Matt Jones, Daniel Hillier, Marcel Siem
- 09:47 Phil Mickelson, Tyrrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner
- 09:58 Xander Schauffele, Robert MacIntyre, Rickie Fowler
- 10:09 Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Scott
- 10:20 Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith
- 10:31 Henrik Stenson, Max Homa, Matt Kuchar
- 10:42 Antoine Rozner, Ryosuke Kinoshita, Ben Hutchinson
- 10:53 Kurt Kitayama, Deyen Lawson, Poom Saksansin
- 11:04 Yuki Inamori, Jimmy Walker, Ricardo Celia
- 11:15 Rikard Karlberg, Ryutaro Nagano, Nicholas Poppleton
- 11:36 Richard Bland, Andy Sullivan, Marcus Armitage
- 11:47 Chan Kim, Justin Harding, Haotong Li
- 11:58 Mike Lorenzo-Vera, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Abel Gallegos*
- 12:09 Alex Noren, J.C. Ritchie, Richard Mansell
- 12:20 Dean Burmester, Danny Willett, Laird Shepherd*
- 12:31 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sam Horsfield, Min Woo Lee
- 12:42 Viktor Hovland, Ryan Palmer, Thomas Detry
- 12:53 Paul Casey, Abraham Ancer, Ian Poulter
- 13:04: Brooks Koepka, Jason Kokrak, Garrick Higgo
- 13:15 Daniel Berger, Joaquin Niemann, Joel Dahmen
- 13:26 Darren Clarke, Bernd Wiesberger, Joe Long*
- 13:37 Chris Kirk, Marcus Kinhult, Jack Senior
- 13:48 Talor Gooch, C.T. Pan, Jonathan Thomson
- 14:04 Ernie Els, Gary Woodland, Cole Hammer*
- 14:15 Sam Burns, Lucas Herbert, Jorge Campillo
- 14:26 Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Branden Grace
- 14:37 Brian Harman, Mackenzie Hughes, Dylan Frittelli
- 14:48 Victor Perez, Kevin Streelman, Guido Migliozzi
- 14:59 Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen
- 15:10 Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer
- 15:21 Dustin Johnson, Will Zalatoris, Justin Rose
- 15:32 Scottie Scheffler, Sergio Garcia, Yuxin Lin*
- 15:43 Harris English, Erik Van Rooyen, Chez Reavie
- 15:54 Lucas Glover, Byeong Hun An, Brandt Snedeker
- 16:05 Cameron Tringale, Takumi Kanaya, Marcel Schneider
- 16:16 Lanto Griffin, Rikuya Hoshino, Connor Worsdall
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