July 20, 2017 / 4:40 PM / a month ago

Golf: Spieth backs up his swagger with impressive first round

Golf - The 146th Open Championship - Royal Birkdale - Southport, Britain - July 20, 2017 USA’s Jordan Spieth reacts after holing his birdie putt on the ninth green during the first roundAndrew Boyers

SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) - Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth said his opening round in the British Open at Royal Birkdale on Thursday was one of the finest he had ever produced in a major after he took a share of the clubhouse lead with a five-under par score of 65.

The 23-year-old former U.S. Masters and U.S. Open winner carded a bogey-free round in tricky, but not treacherous, conditions. With heavy rain forecast for Friday, he said getting off to a strong start was vital.

"Given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today," he said.

Spieth missed the green just twice in his round, his putting was solid and when he did get into tricky rough, he retained his composure.

"I couldn't have done much better today. I missed two greens... in some 15-mile-an-hour winds. This course has a lot of crosswinds, so it's tough to judge how far the ball is going to fly depending on what shot you play. So that speaks a lot to the ball-striking of the day.

"Everything was strong. I thought I give it a nine across the board for everything - tee balls, ball-striking, short game and putting. So things are in check. It's just about keeping it consistent."

His bunker shot at the par-four 16th to help avoid a bogey was something he was particularly proud of.

"That was a really, really nice bunker shot," he said.

"I've been practicing out of uneven lies this entire week in preparation for a shot like that. And that certainly won't be the last one I'll have either, but that up-and-down was harder than hitting a 7-iron to 15 feet and making it. And I was only 35 feet from the hole."

Spieth, the current world number three, has built up a close friendship with 23-times Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps and said the swimmer was proving a helpful psychological support.

"He's become a good friend and somebody who I could call at any time, and he's offered that," said Spieth. "Certainly I'd be doing myself a disservice if I don't keep taking him up on it."

Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Julian Shea

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