Holmes Leads 148th Open by 1 at 66

J.B. Holmes flew into Northern Ireland under the radar, but now everyone knows he’s there.

The 37-year-old Holmes, who has only two top-10 finishes in the major championships, shot 5-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead over one of the home favorites, Shane Lowry of Ireland, after the first round of the 148th Open Championship on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club https://www.royalportrushgolfclub.com in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

“I’m not surprised because I felt good coming in,” said Holmes, whose best result in a major was solo third in the 2016 Open at Royal Troon. “I hit a lot of good shots and I’m really pleased with the way I played. I’m very happy. You’ve got to be patient and get out of there a lot of pars, and hope to make a few birdies

“I’ve played over here a few times, so I know what to expect with the weather, with the wind, and to play the ball along the ground. It’s a fantastic course and it’s set up well. There aren’t too many birdies out there, but it’s a fair course.”

Holmes, who collected his fifth PGA Tour victory earlier this year in the Genesis Open at Riviera, made his only bogey on the first hole before carding three birdies on each nine, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy, ranked third in the world, struggled to a 79, but Lowry gave the Irish something to cheer about by shooting 67 with five birdies on the first 12 holes before finishing with six straight pars on the most difficult part of the course.

“I made only one bogey out there, so I feel like I played really well,” said Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and has four pro victories. “When I got out of position, I was clever enough to save par.

“ … It nice to look into the crowd and see some familiar faces. I drove in here at 6:20 this morning and the grandstand on the first hole was already full and there were people line up all the way down the first fairway.

“It’s great to see the Open in Portrush and I’m, really looking forward to the next few days.”

Eighth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, perhaps the best player without a major title, had the lead for much of his round, but two late bogeys left him at 67 in a huge tie for third that included top-ranked Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Tony Finau, Alex Noren of Sweden, Lee Westwood of England, Ryan Fox of New Zealand, Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, Tyrrell Hatton of England and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa.

Fourth-ranked Justin Rose of England is tied for 16th at 69, 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA shot 70 and is tied for 20th and ninth-ranked Justin Thomas totaled 71 and is tied for 42nd.

Second-ranked Dustin Johnson is tied for 54th at 72, defending champion and seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy finished at 74 and is in a tie for 94th that includes sixth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, while fifth-ranked Tiger Woods is tied for 144th after making only one birdie in a 78.

McIlroy, playing 60 miles from his home in Holywood, Northern Ireland, drove out of bounds on the first hole en route to a quadruple-bogey 8, and added a double-bogey 5 on the 16th hole and a triple-bogey 7 on the last hole.

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