CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Kevin Kisner took advantage of light winds and warm temperatures to shoot a 5-under 66 and take the early lead in the British Open, where defending champion Jordan Spieth was also in the mix on Thursday.
The American needed only 22 putts as he made his way around the Carnoustie links, where wispy rough and fast fairways made for low scores among the early groups. He had a one-shot lead over Erik Van Rooyen, a South African who shot 67.
Spieth was 3 under through 14 holes as he tried to become the first champion to repeat since Padraig Harrington won at Carnoustie in 2007 and again at Royal Birkdale the next year.
Kisner was 1 over going into the fifth hole when he hit a 3-iron onto the par-5 and sunk a long putt for eagle. He would go on to make four more birdies, then finished with a string of pars on the difficult final holes at Carnoustie.
“If I can keep it in the fairway, I feel like I can control my golf ball around the green,” he said. “The greens are calm, and around the greens are flat. I feel like any time I’m around the green I’m going to make 4 or par at the worst. So that’s been my game plan.”
Kisner, who is staying with Spieth and several other players at a house near the course, said they have been enjoying nightly soccer matches in the yard. But he was up early for his morning tee time, and took advantage of the benign conditions.
“You’re always trying to get it in and get it in as low as you can because you never know what the next day is going to have,” Kisner said of the conditions.
Danny Willett, who hasn’t had a victory since surprisingly winning the Masters in 2016, shot a 69 and was three shots back. Phil Mickelson opened with a 73, while Tiger Woods had an afternoon tee time.