PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- Brooks Koepka briefly had a share of the first-round lead at the 148th Open Championship on Thursday, and he's only 2 shots behind leader J.B. Holmes after firing a 3-under 68.
It has become an all-too-familiar sight for the rest of the field, which can't feel great about seeing Koepka's name on the leaderboard again. He has won four of the past 10 major championships.
Koepka had four birdies in the first round and didn't have a bogey until the 17th.
"I feel like I played pretty solid," Koepka said. "I missed it in the right spots all day. One bad one on 17. That's going to cost you. Didn't really make any putts. Didn't take advantage of anything to really go low. But definitely didn't shoot myself out of it, so I'm OK with that."
It doesn't hurt that Koepka's caddie, Ricky Elliott, grew up in Portrush and played the course quite a few times as an amateur. When Koepka was asked how many shots Elliott made a suggestion on, he responded: "Sixty-eight of them."
It's the 14th time in the past 17 rounds of a major that Koepka has finished in the top six. The only times he didn't were the first round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive (which he won) and the first round of June's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (in which he was runner-up).
In the four majors this season, Koepka had a combined score of 18 under in the first round, which is best among active PGA Tour players.
In fact, it's the second-best aggregate score for the first round in the four majors in the past 25 years. Dustin Johnson was 20 under par in the opening round of the majors in 2015.
Koepka feels good about his chances this weekend.
"I've hit it unbelievable the last couple of days," he said. "I'm very pleased with the way I'm striking it. It's nice to get some practice in over the last five, six days. I feel good. I feel very comfortable. It's a major championship. That's what you're trying to peak for."
And no one, at least right now, does that better than him.
Big names headed home for the weekend?
Can Brooks Koepka win The Open?
Tim Cowlishaw, J.A. Adande and Clinton Yates agree that Brooks Koepka is playing at a championship level after the first day of The Open.
Some of golf's biggest stars have plenty of work to do Friday if they're going to make the cut. For a few of them, it's probably going to be too little, too late, regardless of how well they play in the second round.
The top 70 scores and ties make the 36-hole cut.
Local favorite Rory McIlroy, who grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, and set the Royal Portrush course record with a 61 when he was 16, shot 8-over 79. McIlroy had a quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole and a triple-bogey 7 on the 18th.
"I definitely think if I can put the ball in the fairway [on Friday] I can shoot a good enough score to be around for the weekend," McIlroy said. "Obviously, I'm pretty sure anyone starting with a 79 in this golf tournament doesn't think about winning at this point. But I think I can go out there and shoot something in the mid-60s, be around for the weekend and then try to play good from there."
For Woods, the 78 was his worst opening round ever at The Open.
"I'm just not moving as well as I'd like," Woods said. "And unfortunately, you've got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn't do it. I didn't shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right. And wasn't hitting very solidly."
Scott, meanwhile, never felt comfortable during his round.
"I didn't really have anything going my way," Scott said. "And I got myself in some trouble I couldn't get out of, which was disappointing. I've just got to go and shoot a low one [in the second round]. I feel like I'm playing well enough. Just a few things that cost me at least 5 shots. I don't think there's much in it. They're the errors you can't make."
Reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, defending Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele each shot 3-over 74 and also have some work to do in the second round.
Look who's back in the conversation
While Rickie Fowler (1-under 70) and Matt Kuchar (1-under 70) might currently be considered the best players to have never won a major, England's Lee Westwood held that unenviable title for a long time during the height of his career.
Westwood, 46, has won 43 times as a pro and has come agonizingly close in the majors. He has been second at the Masters (2010 and '16) and The Open (2010) and third at the PGA Championship (2009) and U.S. Open (2008 and '11).
Does Westwood have one more run in him? He fired a 3-under 68 for a tie for third after 18 holes. It's his best first round of The Open since he was tied for eighth at St. Andrews in 2010.
Sergio Garcia got the major monkey off his back by winning the 2017 Masters. But he hasn't done much of anything since; he missed the cut in seven of the previous 10 majors.
Garcia is also among 13 players tied for third at 3-under 68. It's the fifth time he has shot 68 or better in the first round of The Open; he finished in the top five in four of the previous occasions.
"Obviously, I'm very satisfied with the way I played and the way that the day went," Garcia said. "It was a solid day. Like I said, it wasn't easy out there. It was quite windy all day. There were some really tough holes, and obviously on the back nine."
Don't forget about me
But it was Irishman Shane Lowry who is close to the top of the leaderboard after firing a 4-under 67 in the first round.
"If I hit a bad shot, I feel like I can get myself out of trouble," Lowry said. "It's a great place to be in, to be honest. I hope it lasts for another while."
Lowry, 32, won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur and has won once on the PGA Tour and four times on the European Tour. He missed the cut in his past four appearances in The Open.
The key for Lowry will be stringing together four consecutive good rounds. He shot 68 in the first round at St. Andrews in 2010 but finished 73-71-75. At Hoylake in 2014, Lowry went 68-75-70-65.
McDowell said Lowry is good enough to win the first Open Championship on Irish soil in 68 years.
"Listen, I've always thought Shane had kind of three big things going for him," McDowell said. "Obviously, he's a great driver of the ball; one of the best chippers of the ball I've ever seen; and he's got a lot of guts and determination. To win an Irish Open for an amateur speaks volumes of who he is and what he is.
"He's a good friend out here, and I have a huge amount of respect for his game. He could easily continue this into the weekend and could easily contend here on Sunday afternoon. He has the game."
Mother Nature will have something to say
The weather and wind are always big factors at the Open Championship. Thursday's opening round was no exception. At times, there was heavy rain on certain areas of the golf course. At the exact same time, other holes were bathed in sunshine.
The forecast for Friday is much of the same, according to the Met Office, which predicts an increased risk of heavy downpours in the late afternoon and evening, along with winds at 5 to 10 mph from the southeast.
If the weather conditions remain the same, Englishman Paul Casey doesn't expect the winning score to get to 10 under.
"If we get the same periods of sun, couple of squalls, same strength of wind, I'd snap your arm off if anybody got to double digits," Casey said. "Double it, add a couple. Yeah, I don't know.
"But we'll see if the R&A lean on it a little bit. They have a very good grasp of things. That's not their style. Their style is usually to let the elements dictate."