Kevin Kisner is the early leader on a beautiful day at Carnoustie. Picture: AP
Kevin Kisner is the early leader on a beautiful day at Carnoustie. Picture: AP

Leishman stumbles, Kisner sizzles at Carnoustie

MARC Leishman remains defiant despite letting a golden start to the British Open slip with a deflating back-nine collapse.

Leishman was flying one shot off the lead after collecting four birdies in his first eight holes before fading to a one-over-par 72 in the difficult afternoon conditions at Carnoustie.

"Good start and bad finish. If you hit bad shots around here, you get punished. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of average shots that finished in bad positions," Leishman said.

"You can rack up bogeys and doubles pretty quick.

"The front nine was promising. Back nine obviously wasn't what I was after."

The 2015 runner-up ended the day six strokes off the pace and will battle forecast rain when he attempts to revive his hopes on Friday.

It was a tough day for Phil Mickelson who finished seven strokes off the lead. Picture: AP
It was a tough day for Phil Mickelson who finished seven strokes off the lead. Picture: AP

"I'm certainly not out of it. I've come from farther back before," he said.

"I'm obviously pretty disappointed at the moment, but it's 54 holes to go, some tough conditions tomorrow by the looks of it with the rain. The course is only getting tougher out there now.

"I'm obviously disappointed but, yeah, positive."

Widely considered Australia's best hope, the world No.18 began his round in style with birdies on three and four before knocking it to a metre to pick up another on six.

After draining a seven-metre birdie putt on the eighth, Leishman threatened to reel in eventual first-round leader Kevin Kisner by the turn.

But a three-putt for bogey on the ninth and double on 10, after finding the water with his approach, abruptly ended his charge.

After further bogeys on the 12th, 14th and 16th holes, Leishman suddenly found himself over par.

"Certainly, I'd like to have the tee shot on 14 again," he said.

Kevin Kisner of the US walks off the 18th green after the first round of the British Open. Picture: AP
Kevin Kisner of the US walks off the 18th green after the first round of the British Open. Picture: AP

"That's probably the only shot I'd like to have again.

"The second shot on 10, it jumped on me, which I wasn't expecting it to. I was trying to hit a little trap draw, and it didn't come out like that. "When they jump, they always go right on me, and it certainly did.

"I'd like to have that shot again and the tee shot on 14. But other than that, it probably wasn't that bad."

After an early bogey, Kisner picked up an eagle and four birdies in his last 12 holes for a five-under-par 66 start to the championship on Thursday.

He looked like dropping shots on several holes coming home, but saved par on 16, 17 and 18 with some brilliant scrambling.

Little-known South African Erik van Rooyen had enjoyed the lead on debut with a four-under 67 before Kisner's dazzling finish.

Erik Van Rooyen briefly enjoyed the lead during the opening round.
Erik Van Rooyen briefly enjoyed the lead during the opening round.

The 28-year-old picked up birdies on the first, fifth, sixth, 11th and 15th holes before dropping his only shot on the last.

A graduate of the Sunshine Tour in his homeland, Van Rooyen only gained his European card this year and earned an invitation to the Open with victory at the 2017 Hainan Open in China.

Fellow South African Brandon Stone, fresh off his Scottish Open triumph on Sunday, continued his hot form with a 68 to be safely in the clubhouse at three- under.

After spraying everything right, defending champion Jordan Spieth leaked two shots on his closing holes to finish one-over.

Englishman Danny Willett, who has barely caused a ripple since his spectacular Masters win at Augusta two years ago, carded a two-under 69 to find himself back on a major leaderboard.

Danny Willett of England lines up a putt on the 13th green. Picture: AP
Danny Willett of England lines up a putt on the 13th green. Picture: AP

He had been at the very top until making bogeys on the last two holes. Countryman Matthew Southgate also had a 69, as did American Pat Perez and South Korea's Sung Kang.

With the baked out fairways rock hard after five weeks without rain, reigning Masters champion Patrick Reid had claimed pre-tournament there were endless ways to play the course.

While many including Australia's highest-ranked golfer Jason Day were contemplating leaving the driver in the bag, Spanish star Jon Rahm lived up to his promise of all-out attack, carrying the burn to drive the par-4 third hole and set up his first birdie of the tournament.

But that approach cost him at the next when he planted his tee shot into a ditch for a bogey.

The Spaniard finished at two-under.



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