Dustin Johnson drew first blood in his latest duel with Jordan Spieth as the world’s elite golfers embarked on a birdie blitz in the first round of the British Open at St Andrews.
Three-and-a-half weeks after all but handing Spieth the US Open trophy with a three-putt on the 72nd hole, Johnson seized the early clubhouse lead at the Open with a sizzling seven-under-par 65.
Playing alongside Spieth, Johnson amassed five birdies and an eagle on the 521-metre par-5 fifth to be top of a jam-packed and star-studded leaderboard.
“I played really solidly today. I drove it well, I drove it straight,” Johnson said.
Australian Jason Day, fellow American Robert Streb and South African Retief Goosen also posted 66s.
Chasing golf’s fabled grand slam after also winning the US Masters this year, Spieth was among a bunch of players to shoot five-under 67s.
The 21-year-old went shot-for-shot Johnson on the front nine as the superstar pair each went out in 31 as the Old Course was rendered defenceless on a still morning at the home of golf.
Spieth, though, dropped shots at the 13th and 17th holes as Johnson seized the outright clubhouse lead with a bogey-free back nine.
“I was able to take advantage on the front nine and then turned into the back nine and was just able to hang on,” Spieth said.
“Even par was a good score on the back nine.”
All up, some 71 players – almost half the field – were in red figures midway through the opening round.
Earlier, little-known Swede David Lingmerth threatened to post the lowest score in British Open history after reaching the turn in just 29 shots.
Lingmerth, a winner on the US PGA tour at the Memorial Tournament in June, started his debut British Open on fire.
The Florida-based Swedish pro’s seven birdies before the turn matched Tony Jacklin’s front-nine first-round record at St Andrews from 1970.
Only Denis Durham’s 28 at Royal Birkdale in 1983 sits ahead of Lingmerth’s efforts.
Unfortunately for Lingmerth, he let it slip on the back nine with three bogeys and an ugly double-bogey par-4 16th to finish with a three-under 69.
Fallen world No.1 Tiger Woods faces an almighty battle to make the halfway cut after opening with a nightmare four-over 76, his worst-ever round as a professional at St Andrews – where the 14-times major winner raised the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005.