Daniel Brown leads Shane Lowry after the first round of the Open Championship

TROON, Scotland — The opening round at Royal Troon left many of the world’s top players in a humiliating situation, but England’s Daniel Brown — currently ranked 272nd in the world — unexpectedly handled the test with ease. The 29-year-old from Northallerton shot a bogey-free 65 to take a one-shot lead in The Open Championship.

Playing in his first major championship, let alone his first Open, Brown led the field in strokes gained off the tee and had a similarly strong putting performance. He gained 4.5 strokes on the greens to rank second in strokes gained putting among entrants at Royal Troon. Brown is making just his third PGA Tour start, coming off a made-cut at the Scottish Open but six consecutive missed cuts before that. According to The athletic Contributor Justin Ray Brown is the only player in the past 30 years to begin his major career with a bogey-free round of 65 or lower.

Behind Brown lurks a player who is more than familiar with the brutal links conditions that held at Royal Troon on Thursday. Shane Lowry sits in solo second at 5 under. Lowry, who won the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush in his native Ireland, has emerged as something of a top-level player in recent years. He has just two PGA Tour victories, but he has won at Portrush and finished T25 or better in 15 of his past 22 majors.

Lowry put himself in good positions throughout the day, while many of his contemporaries found themselves buried in thick gorse and deep bunkers. Meanwhile, he made no mistakes on the greens, leading the pack in putting, having made all 14 putts inside 10 feet. He birdied the seventh, eighth and 10th holes to take the lead and settled in with six consecutive pars before a pin-point approach for birdie on the 18th.

Lowry had a rough start to 2024, even admitting in his win at the Zurich Team Classic that he was outclassed at times by teammate Rory McIlroy. Since that win, Lowry has placed sixth at the PGA Championship, 19th at the U.S. Open and ninth at the Travelers.

Justin Thomas entered the clubhouse as the leader from the morning board after a tough 68 in more difficult conditions. Thomas has had a tough time on links courses in his career. A two-time major winner with a creative, versatile game that seems well suited to the style, Thomas’ best Open finish was T11 in 2019 and his next best was T40. He has failed to make three of seven cuts at the Open, and last year he opened with an 82 at Royal Liverpool that served as his low point.

On Thursday, however, Thomas attacked the greens with mastery and finished the holes well. He ranked in the top 10 in the field in strokes gained on the approach, while sinking 16 of 18 putts inside 20 feet to capitalize.

Perhaps most impressively, Thomas responded when the field beat him to it. After a 4-under start through the 10th hole with a two-shot lead, he made double bogey on the 12th hole and then another bogey on the 13th. Royal Troon had been gobbling up players all day at that point, but Thomas finished the round with birdies on the 17th and 18th.

“I feel like everything has been going well and I’ve been working on the right things,” Thomas said. “Like I said, I haven’t had much to show for it. That’s how this game goes sometimes. But I know I’m close to it and I’m just going to keep playing and not for the results, but for my game, and everything will take care of itself.”

Aside from Thomas, the Europeans played well in the most international major. In addition to the strong starts from Lowry and Brown, Englishman Justin Rose signed a bogey-free 69, and 23-year-old Dane Nicolai Højgaard and Swede Alex Noren also finished 2 under par.

Joining them at 69 were Xander Schauffele, who won the PGA Championship in May, and Russell Henley looking for his first major victory.

But many of the tournament’s biggest stars were seemingly ousted early in the day. The top two players at last month’s U.S. Open, McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau, were at 7 and 5 over par, respectively. McIlroy had made just one birdie all day, and DeChambeau was 6 over par through eight holes and needed an eagle on the 16th to get as far behind as he did.

“It’s a completely different test,” DeChambeau said. “I didn’t practice a lot and I didn’t play a lot in the rain. Yeah, it’s a tough test. Something I’m not familiar with.”

Tiger Woods, playing all four majors in a year for the first time since 2019, started the day 1 under par but quickly dropped eight strokes over the next nine holes to finish 8 over par. That leaves him 140th in the field. Woods, 48, has finished no better than 47th in the seven majors he has played since his 2021 car accident that severely injured his leg.

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(Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

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