Spieth, Koepka slip back as rain halts play

Today at the Open: Spieth, Koepka lead American invasion at Birkdale

British Open 2017: Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar Tied for Lead

And the forecast for the second round is severe, the worst of the four days, so those under par will be grateful for the numbers in the bank.

Reminders cropped up Thursday on the first day of the British Open, when the leaderboard was populated with Americans Jordan Spieth and U.S. Open champ and Jupiter resident Brooks Koepka - who just put down the clubs for four and five weeks - and 39-year-old Matt Kuchar, now the highest-earning PGA Tour player without a major championship win. We see calls for major winds and rain seemingly every Open, and more often than not the afternoon mellows out into very playable conditions.

Some conservative shot choices and solid putting on the back nine made the difference as McIlroy resisted the urge to panic and boosted his chances of being among the weekend's contenders. "So that speaks a lot to the ball-striking of the day".

"Probably words I couldn't use in a press conference", the top-ranked Johnson said.

The world No 4 played the first six holes in eight shots fewer than Thursday with birdies at the first, third and sixth, and he made a series of clutch par saves after the turn as winds gusting up to 40mph sent scores soaring.

This was the first day and the leaderboard was as unpredictable as the weather. It was extremely hard conditions, but this is not something I can ever remember doing in the States.

Then he turned in a gritty 68 on Friday to get within five shots of Jordan Spieth - with just a handful of players in between - in a tournament that is still there for the taking.

He was one of three players to get round without a bogey and he was joined by Koepka, who was fresh after his US Open win last month.

"THE PLAYERS Championship was a big week for me", he said. Any time you're in the last group on a weekend in a Major, and I think I've had at least a share of the lead in a Major championship a dozen times now, you get nervous.

"I mean, look at all the majors I've played". I've done the same thing for years, so it shouldn't take too long to get back into it. Even looking down the first hole it was four or five deep.

Today at the Open: Spieth, Koepka lead American invasion at Birkdale
Spieth, Koepka slip back as rain halts play

Matt Kuchar moved into a tie for the lead in the British Open - but only for the briefest of moments.

He said: "When we played at Troon that afternoon on Friday I think it was the worst stuff I've ever played in. I thought that was an important break for me".

The performance of a fellow leader did catch his attention, however.

The ball was 18 feet from the hole, and Spieth nailed the putt for an eagle.

The homecoming for local kid Tommy Fleetwood didn't exactly go as planned.

Phil Mickelson is a fan favorite, but his group starts just after McIlroy's at 5:09 a.m. ET.

"We had flawless conditions when we went out, and there are some cracking pins - I think the course setup was brilliant".

Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fall into that category.

I was fascinated by the course given that the Open was last here a full decade ago, well before I started covering this sport.

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