Louis Oosthuizen set the early morning pace as The Open Championship returns with healthy crowds and glorious weather.

“British Fans Are The Best In The World”: The Open Returns

Louis Oosthuizen was the early pace setter on Thursday morning at the 149th Open Championship as blue skies and steady winds made for a fascinating morning on the return of The Open.

The South African shot a bogey-free 64 to secure the clubhouse lead just before 3pm local time.

Closley behind him was Jordan Spieth, who carded a first round 65 – which included four consecutive birdies on his front nine and a bogey-free back nine.

But it was Oosthuizen’s effortless opening round that set the early pace for the afternoon starters to chase.

Below the leaders, Mackenzie Hughes, Brian Harman, Dylan Frittelli and 2009 champion Stewart Cink all had bright starts to the week.

All the players have been boosted by the return of fans to golf in the UK, with 32,000 fans being allowed in to Royal St. George’s each day this week.

Spieth was complimentary about having the British fans following him.

“Well, I just think over here they’re very knowledgeable, so like I may have a 5-iron into a hole and 20 feet is a fantastic shot, and they just know that because they’ve seen it all day and they’re aware of how difficult shots are versus if you hit a wedge and you really had an opportunity to get one close.”

“I feel like the fans here are very knowledgeable about the sport, and they’re also having a great time. Really the grandstands, the amphitheater settings at this tournament is a lot of what I’m talking about. It’s just like at Augusta, it’s just a beautiful setting a lot of times, shaping a lot of the holes with people. I think that’s kind of fun.”

Englishman Danny Willett, who carded an opening 3-under par 67, was full of praise for the knowledgable and appreciative British crowd.

“British fans are the best in the world. The Open is a very special venue, a very special tournament for everyone. Yeah, to be able to be clapped on to every tee, every green, really guys who know, spectators, fans who know golf, makes a big difference in this game.

“They’ve been out there in the thousands all week, and it’s been fantastic to have them back.”

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout was similarly appreciative of the crowds at Royal St. George’s as he carded a 2-under par 68 on Thursday morning.

“It’s been great to have the fans back, especially here in the U.K. where the fans enjoy the golf. They’re nice to us golfers. Even if you don’t hit a good shot, they clap you, they encourage you to go forward and just keep on playing. So nice to have them back at the British Open. It’s special to have them back.”

Elsewhere in the field, defending champion Shane Lowry shot a 1-over 71 while Andy Sullivan, who was first out at 6:35am BST, set the early clubhouse lead at 3-under par.

Shot of the day so far is a close call between Shane Lowry (above) and Will Zalatoris.

Zalatoris holed out for eagle on the par 4 12th to take him to 3-under for the day.

There were struggles for last week’s Scottish Open winner Min Woo Lee (+4) and in-form Jon Rahm who cast a frustrated figure throughout his round of 71.