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Fleetwood joins amateur Lamprecht at top of British Open leaderboard

2022 Open champion, Australia's Cameron Smith watches his shot from the 16th tee during a practice round ahead of the 151st British Open Golf Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, north west England. Paul ELLIS / AFP

Home favourite Tommy Fleetwood joined South African amateur Christo Lamprecht at the top of the leaderboard on five under par on the opening day of the 151st British Open at Hoylake.

Lamprecht, 22, shone on his debut at the majors after earning his place by winning the Amateur Championship last month.

Lamprecht, who stands 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 metres) tall, used his long levers to great effect around the Royal Liverpool course on Thursday, averaging the longest driving distance among the early starters.

“I earned my spot to be here. I think the way I played today I earned to be on the top of the leaderboard, as of now,” said Lamprecht.

Fleetwood, who hails from Southport, just 30 miles (48 kilometres) from the course, gave his chances of a first major title win a huge boost with a run of three consecutive birdies between the 14th and 16th, to card a 66.

Despite the glorious blue skies on the Wirral coastline, some of the more stellar names in the field struggled.

World number one Scottie Scheffler got off to a flying start with two birdies in the opening four holes.

But the American needed a birdie at the last to move to one under as he started quest to add to his one major win at the 2022 Masters.

Defending champion Cameron Smith finished at one over par after an eventful round that featured four birdies and five bogeys.

Smith and Brooks Koepka appear to pose the biggest threat from the group of players now regularly plying their trade in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

Koepka, who won his fifth major at the PGA Championship in May, is four off the lead after turning around a difficult start with three birdies in the final eight holes.

England’s Matthew Jordan hit the first tee shot at 6:35 am local time (0535 GMT) on the course where he is a member.

The world number 329 is just three shots off the lead after carding a 69.

“I’m kind of running out of words to describe it,” Jordan said. “It was crazy, mental, loud, everything that I could have wished for.”

Veteran Stewart Cink is another surprise name at the top of the leaderboard as the 50-year-old American finished at three under par.

– All eyes on McIlroy –

World number two Rory McIlroy will be the centre of attention later as he returns to the Royal Liverpool course where he lifted the Claret Jug for the only time in 2014.

The Northern Irishman backed up that victory by winning the PGA Championship the following month, but has been stuck on four major titles ever since.

McIlroy came agonisingly close both at last year’s British Open at St Andrews and last month, when he missed out at the US Open by one shot to Wyndham Clark.

The 34-year-old heads to Hoylake full of confidence after a birdie-birdie finish in blustery conditions secured his first Scottish Open title last weekend.

“I could not ask for better preparation,” said McIlroy. “The way I played the last two holes (in Scotland) was an amazing finish and a perfect way to come into this week.

“I’ve had a great nine years and won a lot of tournaments but the big four have eluded me. Hopefully this week that’s something I can change.”

McIlroy is among the late starters on Thursday as he tees off alongside Masters champion Jon Rahm and former world number one Justin Rose.

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