Spieth signals early Open intent

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Jordan Spieth justified his status as one of leading contenders for the Claret Jug as he reached the turn at Royal Birkdale in the lead at three under on Thursday.

The two-time major winner teed off his Open first round alongside reigning champion Henrik Stenson and Kim Si-woo, that trio having missed the earlier driving rain in Southport.

All three started with pars on a first hole that has already claimed many victims, including the man who had the honour of the opening tee shot, with 1998 champion Mark O'Meara carding an eight.

Spieth birdied the second and then made back-to-backs gains at eight and nine to lead by one, with Welshman Stuart Manley in the clubhouse having signed for a 68.

Home hopes Ian Poulter and Justin Rose were also two under when Spieth was through nine, with Stenson one stroke back.

Spieth finished tied for fourth at the Open in 2015, the year in which he won the Masters and U.S. Open.

This week the 23-year-old is on the hunt for his first major since his triumph at Chambers Bay.