Royal Birkdale has been kind to golfers from the USA over the years, with 5-of-9 Open Championships going to American golfers over the years. Mo Martin won the Women’s Open in 2014 there, furthering the trend. This bodes well for Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, and all of whom occupy spots in the top-10 after the first round. However, the news from Day 1 wasn’t just about them; I recap the day’s biggest takeaways below.

1) So much is going Brooks’ way

He cut his professional teeth on the European challenge and main tours. He’s the reigning U.S. Open trophy-keeper. He even knows when the cameras are on and he plays to them! Brooks Koepka is tied at the top with Jordan Spieth, and is positioned well after 18 holes. His comfort level in Europe is higher than that of most Americans, and its pairing with his current level of confidence will be enough to place him in the hunt on Sunday.

2) Royal Birkdale offers predictable leaders

One of the characteristics of links golf is its unpredictable bounces, caroms and rolls. Royal Birkdale has a penchant for allowing traditionally sound golfers to shine, and Thursday was no exception. Of the top-11 finishers (all at 3-under par or better) only two would be considered unexpected or unknown. The remainder fit into one of three categories: major champions, Ryder Cup participants, or repeated major challengers. A total of 39 golfers finished under par, within four shots of the lead. Unless someone goes very low on Friday, those who make the cut will have a shot at the title with 36 holes to play.

3) Is Jordan Spieth ready to add a 3rd major title to his resume?

Many people forget that Jordan Spieth came within one stroke of winning three majors to start the 2015 season. Spieth narrowly missed out on the Zach Johnson-Marc Leishman-Louis Oosthuizen playoff. On Thursday, Spieth played bogey-free golf to earn a share of the lead. He scrambled well and only an 18th-hole deceleration on a shortish birdie putt kept him from solo first at 6-under. Here’s our prediction: Spieth will be in the mix come Sunday. Here’s our uncertainty: He will win. With all major champions, until it’s done, it isn’t certain.

4) England’s hopes are high

Here’s a recipe: mix one plate resurgent Ian Poulter, another two macaroons of chip-on-his-shoulder Paul Casey, an unheralded Richard Bland scone, and you’ve got the makings of a lovely afternoon tea. In total, 14 Englishmen are within six strokes of the top, meaning that the St. George’s Cross might fly against a white background on Sunday. Justin Rose got off to something less than the start he wanted, but a 66 in round two will push round one into the background. In addition to Casey and Ian Poulter, at 4-under and 3-under, respectively, youngsters Andrew “Beef” Johnston and Matthew Fitzpatrick are under par and in the mix. It won’t hit anyone for six if one of these lads hoists the Claret Jug come Sunday afternoon.

5) Open links teach patience and reward

How many golfers would over-swing from this lie and wind up in deeper trouble? Yep, my hand’s up, too. Hoffmann took the wise and intelligent path: offer a half swing, pitch it out, and watch it bound into the hole for eagle. Welcome to Open 2017, Charley! And welcome, to T6 at The Open after Thursday.

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  1. It is isn’t a surprise to see Koepka playing well. Coming off the win at US Open and he started his career on the European Tour so I am sure he feels at home playing over the pond. Spieth can play well at British seeing he was really close to winning in 2015. It will be fun to watch.

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