South African amateur Christo Lamprecht and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood set the early pace, and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo made a monster putt to claim a share of the first-round lead at The 151st Open Championship on Thursday at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
At 5-under 66, the trio was one shot ahead of Antoine Rozner of France, Adrian Otaegui of Spain and American Brian Harman, with a pack of big names giving chase at the final major championship of the year.
Lamprecht, a 22-year-old senior at Georgia Tech, won the Amateur Championship last month not far from Liverpool to qualify for the Open. His round Thursday morning featured seven birdies, including a chip-in from the fairway at the par-4 14th.
Fleetwood, a home-crowd favorite who grew up about 30 miles away from the course, sank three straight birdies at Nos. 14-16 -- punctuated by a 26-footer at the 16th -- to post a 4-under 32 on the back nine and tie Lamprecht.
"Such a special opportunity to play so close to home, (to) have that support and play an Open," Fleetwood said. "Glad I gave them some good golf to watch."
The last time an Englishman won The Open on English soil was Tony Jacklin in 1969. And only three amateurs have ever won The Open -- the last being Bobby Jones in 1930.
"It's pretty surreal," Lamprecht said. "It's nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off. It's something I haven't dreamt of yet, but it's pretty cool."
The 6-foot-9 Lamprecht had the fortune of playing the first two rounds with a fellow South African he counts as a "ginormous mentor" -- Louis Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 Open in surprise fashion.
"I think that helped a lot to my score today," Lamprecht said. "... It was kind of a nice draw. I thought they rigged it by some means, but no, I loved it."
Grillo tied the lead during the afternoon wave by going 5-under over his final eight holes. He had trouble at the par-5 18th before draining a 51-foot uphill birdie putt to become a co-leader.
"It's one of the greatest honors in the world, and I'm up there," Grillo said of competing in The Open. "I guess goal achieved for today."
The Open offered up its usual buffet of links-style golf, with slopes and false fronts feeding golf balls into one of 82 pot bunkers.
European golfers like Rozner and Otaegui seemed to benefit. Otaegui rolled in four birdies over his final seven holes. Harman, a two-time PGA Tour winner who tied for sixth last year at St Andrews, had five birdies and a single bogey.
"I had a lot of keys out here," Harman said. "You've got to drive it well, you've got to hit your irons really solid and hold it against the wind. It's not just about your putter. There's no faking around this place."
U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and World No. 8 Max Homa were tied at 3-under 68 with Alex Noren of Sweden, Shubhankar Sharma of India, Michael Stewart of Scotland and 50-year-old Stewart Cink.
"I've played a lot of these and experience matters here probably as much as anywhere else," said Cink, who shot a bogey-free round. "Right up there with probably Augusta National."
Englishman Matthew Jordan, 27, has been a member at Royal Liverpool since age 7 and had the honor of hitting the first tee shot of the championship before completing a round of 69. Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth was also part of the group at 2 under, despite a double bogey at No. 8 and a bogey at the par-5 18th that counteracted five birdies.
At 1-under 70, a large grouping includes PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Norway's Viktor Hovland and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama. Defending Open champ Cameron Smith of Australia opened with a 1-over 72.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, searching for his first major title since 2014, had an up-and-down day but rallied to an even-par 71. The betting favorite entering the week after he won the Scottish Open, McIlroy birdied Nos. 14 and 15 to get back to even and saved par at the 18th after an initial attempt to get out of a greenside bunker went nowhere.
"A few putts started to go in on the back nine for me, which was nice to see," McIlroy said. "Hopefully I've got my eye in the line and I can build on that over the next three days."
Playing partner Jon Rahm of Spain struggled with his putting en route to a 3-over 74, tied with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau of LIV Golf. Justin Thomas made a quadruple bogey at the last hole and signed for an 11-over 82, tied for 154th of 156 golfers.
The top 70 players and any ties will make Friday's 36-hole cut.
--Field Level Media