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Poulter sets clubhouse pace, Spieth starts well

By Ed Osmond

By Ed Osmond

SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) - England's Ian Poulter made light of tough conditions to shoot a rock-solid 67 in the British Open first round at Royal Birkdale on Thursday and move behind American leaders Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka.

Poulter, runner-up in the 2008 Open on this course, rattled in four birdies and made only one bogey as rain and strong crosswinds caused problems for the early starters.

Spieth, the world number three and twice major champion, putted smoothly to move to four under after 14 holes and Koepka, who won the U.S. Open last month, birdied the 11th and 12th holes to join him atop the leaderboard.

Welshman Stuart Manley, the world number 520, chipped in from a bunker for an eagle at the 17th before picking up a birdie at the last hole to complete a round of 68.

Sweden's Alex Noren, one of the form players on the European Tour this year, also carded 68.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and world number two Hideki Matsuyama of Japan were among a bunch of players on one under after 12 holes.

Experienced American Mark O'Meara endured a day to forget on his return to the course where he won the 1998 Open.

Handed the honor of hitting the first shot of the tournament, O'Meara sent his drive out of bounds before running up a quadruple-bogey eight and he ended up signing for an ugly round of 81.

World number one Dustin Johnson, four-times major champion Rory McIlroy and American Phil Mickelson, runner-up to Stenson last year, were among the late starters.

(Editing by Christian Radnedge)