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Americans ruling again at Royal Troon

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TROON, Scotland—On a gorgeous, sunny day along the Scottish coast, the Americans resumed their domination of Royal Troon.

Americans occupy seven of the top eight spots on the leaderboard at Royal Troon in the first round today—not surprising because they have won the British Open the last six times on these links.

One name stands out, however.

Phil Mickelson joined Patrick Reed at five-under par 66 with a long birdie putt on the 10th hole and he remained bogey-free through 12 holes.

Mickelson hasn’t won since he captured the claret jug at Muirfield three years ago.

Billy Horschel and Tony Finau both finished at 67 and were one shot behind, along with Justin Thomas and 49-year-old Steve Stricker.

And not to be overlooked is Zach Johnson, the defending champ, who was four-under through 10 holes this afternoon.

Reed got his round going in benign conditions this morning by holing out from 139 yards at the par-four third hole for eagle.

That sparked him to a five-under 31 on the much easier outward nine, which generally plays downwind and especially was ripe for going low on this day.

On the return leg, playing tougher holes into the wind, it was all about survival.

Reed managed to shoot even par coming in and had no complaints.

Asked to describe the difference between the two nines, he replied, “David vs. Goliath.”

After a week dominated by who is—and, more notably, isn’t—going to Rio next month for the first Olympic tournament in 112 years, it finally was time to put the focus on the sport’s oldest major championship.

As usual, the Americans were having their way at Royal Troon, where the last six winners going back to Arnold Palmer in 1962 have been from the U.S.

“I’ve heard that stat, as well, but honestly with how competition is these days, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from or anything like that,” Reed stressed.

“You have to be on your game, you have to stick to your game plan.

“I think the main thing is to stay with my game plan because the odds of me going out and eagling [No. 3] right out of the gates again, to go and hole out, it’s rare.”

Then again, the 25-year-old Reed certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. Two years ago, he raised plenty of eyebrows by declaring himself to be one of the top five players in the world.

That same year, he seemed to thrive on the heckling he received during the Ryder Cup in Scotland.

But Reed has yet to live up to his boasting—leaving him clearly on the outside of a “Fab Four” that includes Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy.

They’ve won six of the last eight major championships and were on nearly everyone’s list of favourites coming into this week.

“It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not the one that’s writing the articles or doing anything,” Reed noted.

“At the end of the day, all I can control is what I do and how I play the game.

“Honestly, for me, I don’t mind flying underneath the radar,” he added.

McIlroy, who won at Hoylake in 2014 but didn’t play in last year’s Open because of an ankle injury he sustained playing soccer with his buddies, got off to a solid start with a 69 today.

He is seeking his fifth major title.

Spieth opened with a 71—one year after his bid for an unprecedented Grand Slam was denied when he missed out on a playoff at St. Andrews by one stroke after winning the Masters and the U.S. Open.

Day, the world’s top-ranked player and reigning PGA champion, struggled to a 73.

Coming off his first major title at the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson had an afternoon tee time.

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