British Open 2018: Kevin Kisner Shoots 5 Under, Tops Thursday Leaderboard

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2018

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19:  Kevin Kisner of the United States looks on  during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Kevin Kisner fired a five-under 66 to grab the lead after Thursday's first round of the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland. 

Kisner posted an eagle, four birdies and a bogey in Round 1. The performance created a one-shot advantage over Tony Finau, Zander Lombard and Erik van Rooyen, who are tied for second at four under after 18 holes in the season's third major tournament.

Tiger Woods, who's playing in the British Open for the first time since 2015, faded on the back nine after a hot start en route to an even-par 71.

Kisner is a surprise leader of a variety of reasons.

The 34-year-old University of Georgia product owns a single top-10 result across 14 major appearances and he's been in poor form lately. He failed to crack the top 10 in any of his past six starts dating back to early May, missing three cuts during that span.

His putter carried him to the top of the leaderboard Thursday. He only found 47 percent of the fairways and 50 percent of the greens in regulation. But he needed just 22 putts in the first round.

Chris Fallica of ESPN noted Kisner's track record suggests Friday's round will likely be crucial in determining his ability to contend:

Woods, who's struggled to get off to quick starts in majors during his latest comeback, reversed that trend Thursday with a birdie on the first. He added another on the fourth as part of a bogey-free front nine.

The 14-time major champion couldn't maintain that momentum on the back side, however, posting three bogeys and one birdie after the turn. His iron play was indifferent for most of the round, leaving a lot of mid- to long-range looks on the greens, most of which he couldn't convert despite a few close calls.

Along with his play, Tiger also attracted attention for wearing kinesiology tape on his neck. His camp said it was treatment after he woke up with a stiff neck and wasn't related to any type of serious injury, per Steve DiMeglio of USA Today.

Meanwhile, Jhonattan Vegas made headlines for his wild journey to the first tee.

Bob Harig of ESPN.com explained the Venezuelan veteran didn't settle issues with his work visa until Wednesday, which forced him to take a red-eye flight from his home in Houston to Scotland. He then took a helicopter ride to Carnoustie, where he had to play the opening round with replacement clubs.

Those details make it easier to understand his five-over 76.

All told, the scoring conditions were easier during the early portion of Thursday's action. The course, which was already dry, became extremely firm during the afternoon wave and made it tough for players to get tee and approach shots to stop where they wanted.

Friday's play may favor the same group of players, which includes Kisner and the other leaders.

The Weather Channel forecast projects a 90 percent chance of morning rain for the second round, hurting those with early tee times and favoring later starts. Golfers should find a more receptive course with the added water after the showers move through.

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