Former East of Ireland champion Christo Lamprecht of South Africa will take a share of the lead into the second round of the 151st Open Championship in Royal Liverpool on five-under-par alongside local favourite Tommy Fleetwood and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
The Amateur champion roared to the summit on Thursday morning with a sublime 66 before he was joined by Southport boy Fleetwood while Grillo was the best of a tough afternoon to join them.
Lambrecht’s links record is second to none with wins at the 2018 East of Ireland championship and last month’s Amateur Championship just down the road in Hillside and he caught the eye early on with birdies on 3, 5 and 6 to take the early lead.
A fourth birdie of the day arrived on the 10th before he handed it back on 11. Already building quite the highlight reel the South African amateur pitched in from 40 yards for birdie on 14 before birdieing the par-5 15th. A bogey on 16 was followed by a par on 17 and a birdie on 18 to post the clubhouse lead and he would not be overtook in the afternoon.
“Yeah, it’s pretty surreal. It’s nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off. It’s something I haven’t dreamt of yet, but it’s pretty cool.
“I mean, as an amateur, yes, it is surprising. But in my own head, no, it’s not. I think I’m very hard on myself, and I think I earned my spot to be here. I think the way I played today I earned to be on the top of the leaderboard, as of now.
“It’s not a cocky thing to say. I just personally think I believe in myself, and I guess stepping on to the first tee box if you’re a professional or a competitor, you should be believing that you should be the best standing there.
“Yeah, I’m very proud of it. I’m a little bit surprised, obviously naturally, but I’m also — I played good golf today.”
He was shortly joined by Fleetwood who ended the day as the only man in the field to string three birdies in a row together, rolling them in on 14, 15 and 16 to help him on his way to his lowest opening round in the Open Championship. Fleetwood was roared on by a partizan home crowd as he looks to break through and claim that elusive major.
“Yeah, it was very cool, and I think you can’t ask for more from the fans and the support. They were so great to me today.
“I would love to play Goodison. I would love to give that a go. But yeah, they were great, from the first tee onwards, throughout the round, the way they were down the last hole there, the reception I got.
“Such a special opportunity to play so close to home, but have that support and play an Open, glad I gave them some good golf to watch. But for me, yeah, so, so cool for me to step out on the golf course and getting that kind of support.
“I am one of them, one of the guys that’s out there. I’m a fan of the game. I’m from this area. Yes I feel at home, and to feel that support, it means a lot.”
Of the Irish raiders, it’s Rory McIlroy who leads the Irish charge courtesy of a battling back nine. Having found himself two-over after 12 holes he birdied 14 and 15 before a herculean par on 18 gave him a level-par 71 to lie alongside Seamus Power while Shane Lowry and Laytown & Bettystown amateur Alex Maguire are a shot further back.
2011 Open champion Darren Clarke is a respectable +2 with 2007 and 2008 Claret Jug holder, Padraig Harrington on three-over.
There is a dearth of star names on the first page of the leaderboard but US Open champion Wyndham Clark are both in a share of 7th on three-under while 2017 Open winner Jordan Spieth is a shot further back alongside Matthew Jordan who got proceedings underway on Thursday morning.
Defending champion Cameron Smith is one-over-par alongside Aussie mates Adam Scott and Jason Day while world number one Scottie Scheffler is on one-under.
Masters champ Jon Rahm is an annoying three-over-par.
The bunkers are the big defence of this flat Hoylake links with the front left bunkers on 18 bamboozling the players.
Much was written about the new par-3 17th but it was the green side traps that took the headlines on day one on Merseyside with the par-5 18th coughing up everything from an eagle three to a quintuple bogey ten.
The unfortunate double digit was struck by Taichi Kho who was in the green side bunker in two shots. Justin Thomas also went from bunker to bunker, eventually taking a nine to sign for an 82 which leaves him next to last ahead of Hong Kong’s Kho.
McIlroy is a thrill whether he is playing good, bad or indifferent and in true McIlroy fashion he dazzled til the end. After leaving his third shot in the bunker where he started, he went one foot in, one foot out to set up the most unlikely of par saves.
Jon Rahm had to play out backwards from the green side bunker on 18 – the second time he had to do so after playing backwards from a fairway trap on 12.
Drama in Liverpool.