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Christo Lamprecht shares lead at Open Championship after 66

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HOYLAKE, England — Amateur Christo Lamprecht might be the only one at Royal Liverpool Golf Club who isn’t surprised his name is at the top of the leaderboard with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo after Thursday’s opening round of the 151st Open Championship.

Lamprecht, 22, had seven birdies and two bogeys while carding a 5-under 66 in his first round played in a major championship. The Georgia Tech senior qualified for The Open in June by winning the British Amateur at nearby Hillside Golf Club.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Lamprecht said. “It’s nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off. It’s something I haven’t dreamt of yet, but it’s pretty cool.”

Lamprecht is only the second amateur to have at least a share of the co-lead after the first round of The Open in the past 50 years; Tom Lewis was the other one in 2011, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. Bobby Jones, who also played at Georgia Tech, was the last amateur to lead after the first round in an Open at Royal Liverpool, in 1930.

“He’s playing great golf,” said 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen, who played with Lamprecht on Thursday. “The length he hits off the tee, there [are] a lot of bunkers not in play, which is a big advantage. But you still need to hit it [on a] pretty good line off the tee. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Oosthuizen should know. Lamprecht has been participating in his golf academy in South Africa since he was about 14. The foundation provided him with coaching and other resources that helped him land a scholarship to Georgia Tech.

At 6 feet, 8 inches, Lamprecht is believed to be the tallest player to ever compete in The Open. He said his father is 6-4, his grandfather is 6-8 and his great-grandfather was 7 feet. Lamprecht said his growth spurt came near the start of high school.

“I was growing so fast and my swing changed every week, and it was all over the place for like two years there,” Lamprecht said. “I guess once I kind of finally got to a certain length where I didn’t grow that much more and got a little bit more mature, I figured out where to go.”

Lamprecht insists he’s not only concerned with hitting the ball far. Still, he ranked third in driving distance at 325 yards Thursday and had drives of 364 yards on No. 2 and 353 yards on No. 18. He ranked fifth in strokes gained: approach (3.46) and 25th in strokes gained: putting (1.63).

“As a 50-year-old golfer, seeing a guy like him, he is pretty much like your basic nightmare,” said Stewart Cink, who is tied for seventh at 3 under. “He can hit it like 330 [yards] in the air, and he hits those little shots around the green so soft, it’s amazing. He’s got a lot of really good potential in front of him.”

LIV Golf League star Bryson DeChambeau, one of the longest hitters off the tee in the game, approached Lamprecht on the driving range earlier this week.

“He just wished he had my length, I guess,” Lamprecht said. “No, I don’t know. Hitting it far is not what I think golf is all about. I think links golf is a true test of golf and it’s the way golf is supposed to be played.”

Lamprecht, the No. 3-ranked amateur in the world, played it just about better than anyone on Thursday. Fleetwood, who grew up in Southport, England, about 30 miles from Royal Liverpool, is certainly one of the crowd favorites. He birdied four holes on the back nine to match Lamprecht’s score.

Fleetwood, 32, will attempt to become the first English golfer to win The Open since Nick Faldo in 1992 and the first to win an Open Championship on English soil since Tony Jacklin in 1969.

“They were great, from the first tee onwards, throughout the round, the way they were down the last hole there, the reception I got,” Fleetwood said of the fans. “Such a special opportunity to play so close to home, but have that support and play an Open, glad I gave them some good golf to watch. But for me, yeah, so, so cool for me to step out on the golf course and get that kind of support.”

Three other players, including American Brian Harman, were 1 stroke behind at 4 under. Max Homa was among five players who were 3 under. Jordan Spieth was 2 under after 18 holes, and world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were 4 shots back at 1 under.

Rory McIlroy, who won The Open the last time it was played at Royal Liverpool in 2014, needed birdies on two of his last five holes to get back to even par. Defending Open Championship winner Cameron Smith was 1 over.

“I didn’t really get it going on the front nine,” McIlroy said. “Was missing a few putts, and then missed that little one on the eighth hole. Had a good chance to sort of get it back at 9 and hit a good putt, but I just didn’t read it right.

“A few putts started to go in on the back nine for me, which was nice to see. Hopefully, I’ve got my eye in the line, and I can build on that over the next three days.”

All eyes, surprisingly, were on Lamprecht on Thursday.

“I think the way I played today I earned to be on the top of the leaderboard, as of now,” Lamprecht said. “It’s not a cocky thing to say. I just personally think I believe in myself, and I guess stepping onto the first tee box if you’re a professional or a competitor, you should be believing that you should be the best standing there.”

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