Kuchar takes Open lead with two early birdies

US golfer Dustin Johnson putts on the 14th green during a practice round at Royal Birkdale golf course near Southport north-west England

Johnson and Spieth favorites as British Open begins

What stands out is St. Andrews in 2015, when the 23-year-old Texan was going for the third leg of the Grand Slam and missed the playoff by one shot.

Rory McIlroy appeared poised to make a run, with three birdies in his first five holes. I've toyed with getting them onside but it's tricky, if the forecast doesn't change, they're actually going to be getting the worst of the weather so although I can see their prices shortening because everyone struggles in the morning, they may very soon struggle themselves, and there's always a chance one or two early starters do make a move.

"To be under par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that", he said afterwards.

"I chipped in right before it and it couldn't have been better timing". "I was excited to get over here. So it hasn't really sunk in, I don't think yet".

He added: "Fortunately we have been here before, and fortunately we are not going for the first major".

"I think that's what people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there", Kuchar said.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson escaped the halfway cut, which fell at five over, but plenty of major winners fell foul, including last year's runner-up Phil Mickelson.

Spieth was consistently excellent, hitting all but three greens - and putting from off the green on one of those - and shooting a 31 and 34.

"I believe that we can do this".

Spieth is looking forward to playing on Saturday with Kuchar, his Ryder Cup team mate.

He looked a forlorn figure when another wayward tee shot at the eighth finished in thick rough, but he holed a superb 20-foot putt to save par and looked close to his best after the turn as he finally got a birdie on his card at the 11th.

And just when it seemed like he too would fall victim to the near gale force winds and driving rain, he stemmed the flow of dropped shots with a touch of genius.

"It was just fun to get back playing again", he said.

"It was almost the opposite wind of what we had yesterday".

But yesterday leading British player Ian Poulter said the fans on the course were the real champions.

The wind remained strong. "It was quite a trying, challenging day".

With winds of nearly 50 kilometres an hour gusting through the course, Kuchar earlier mixed four bogeys with three birdies and hoped to kick back in his hotel and watch the afternoon carnage unfold.

'I played really well.

"I couldn't have done much better today", he said. "You're hitting these shots and the ball is just going whatever. Come on, Poults!' I mean, that's nice". "I feel like I certainly have as good a chance as anybody".

The giant American, chasing a first major at the age of 39, had three birdies and four bogeys in a mixed bag of a day at Royal Birkdale as he shot a one-over round of 71.

"I wish I could blame it on the wind". I wanted to have those juices flowing. "I didn't hit a great drive".

"I was very concerned about it". "I felt like I drove it all right". But today was very hard.

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