Dustin Johnson says the golfing gods owe him nothing as he looks to rebound from his spectacular US Open near-miss with an overdue major championship breakthrough at St Andrews.
The unflappable American fired his equal-lowest round at a major to seize the outright British Open lead with a sizzling seven-under-par 65 on Thursday.
Johnson grabbed a one-stroke buffer on a jam-packed and star-studded leaderboard with compatriots Zach Johnson and Robert Streb, Australian Jason Day, South African Retief Goosen, Englishman Danny Willett and Scotland’s 1999 champion Paul Lawrie also taming the famous Old Course on the opening day.
Chasing the fabled grand slam, Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth is among five players two shots adrift after signing for a five-under 67 as the world’s elite golfers embarked on a first-day birdie blitz.
All up, 63 players – almost half the field – are in red figures.
But for the second major in a row, Johnson holds the first-round lead after the 31-year-old also shared top spot with Henrik Stenson last month at Chambers Bay.
“I played really solidly today. I drove it well, I drove it straight,” Johnson said after accruing an eagle on the 521-metre par-five fifth and five birdies.
“This venue here is one of my favourite Opens. It’s kind of hard to beat St Andrews for an Open Championship.
“I really like the golf course. I think it sets up well for me.”
Johnson also carded an opening 65 at Chambers Bay, only to three-putt the 72nd hole on Sunday to all but hand Spieth the trophy.
But not looking back, the laid-back Johnson insisted he wasn’t eyeing redemption at the spiritual home of golf – and isn’t looking for any sympathy or favours.
“I’ve said a bunch of times: nothing bad happened at Chambers Bay. I wasn’t disappointed, really,” he said.
“I played really well, did everything I was supposed to. I couldn’t control what the ball was doing on the greens there.
“There’s really no bad feelings from that, only good. I played really well and then it carried over to today.”
Playing alongside Johnson, Spieth went shot-for-shot with the big-hitting challenger on the front nine as the marquee pair each went out in 31.
Spieth, though, dropped shots at the 13th and 17th before closing with a birdie on 18.
“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.”
American amateur Jordan Niebrugge, compatriot Kevin Na, South African major winners Charl Schwarzel and Louis Oosthuizen, the last champion at St Andrews in 2010, are all also at five-under with Spieth.
Australian Matt Jones is among a bunch of players one stroke further adrift after carding a solid 68.
Little-known Swede David Lingmerth is three under but threatened to post the lowest score in Open history after reaching the turn in 29 before leaking four shots on the back nine.
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.