Dustin Johnson opens with 7-under 65 to take early lead at The Open

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Dustin Johnson opened with a 7-under 65 at St. Andrews and looked like the player to beat Thursday in The Open.

Eight times zones and an ocean away from Chambers Bay, Johnson and Jordan Spieth picked up where they left off a month ago when Spieth beat him by one shot in the U.S. Open to capture the second leg of the Grand Slam. On this day, Johnson got the better of him despite Spieth's opening with six birdies in 11 holes.

Asked about Spieth's chances to sweep the four majors, Johnson said, "Well, I'm playing the next two, so we'll have to see."

Johnson overpowered the Old Course with such a blend of power and accuracy that he hit wedges onto greens at all but three of the 14 par-4s. Two of them were into the wind. Another was No. 9, where he putted from just off the green.

The six players who were one shot behind at 66 included former Open champion Paul Lawrie and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. Jason Day, coming off his scary bout with vertigo symptoms at the U.S. Open, was back on his feet and back in the hunt. Most impressive from that group were Zach Johnson and Danny Willett, who posted their scores as the temperature dropped and wind stiffened late in the afternoon.

Spieth was joined at 67 by Louis Oosthuizen, the last Open champion at St. Andrews.

Thursday morning was suited for scoring, so it was critical Dustin Johnson and all the other early starters post low scores.

"Everybody knows the weather Friday and Saturday is going to be very difficult, so today I thought was very important to get off to a good start and try to make as many birdies as you can," Dustin Johnson said. "Because the next couple days, it's going to be very difficult."

The afternoon wave suffered in chill and wind so strong that Phil Mickelson hit a driver and 3-wood and still didn't reach the 465-yard 13th hole. He said he had to hit 5-iron for his third shot on the par-5 14th. Dustin Johnson was pin-high on the hole with a 3-wood in the morning. Mickelson made only one bogey on the back nine and shot 70. He called the conditions "fun," though his smile might not last if the morning group doesn't face the same conditions.

"We were at a significant disadvantage today," Mickelson said. "And hopefully, if we're able to play an entire day tomorrow, it will even itself out."

The first 26 groups had an average score of 71.46. The last 26 groups averaged 72.62.

Rickie Fowler, coming off a victory in the Scottish Open, said the final seven holes he was "hanging on for dear life." He made two bogeys, one eagle and 15 pars for a 72.

The forecast was for rain early Friday and wind calming as it clears, followed by stronger gusts in the afternoon. Saturday could have gusts approaching 40 mph.

Tiger Woods, a two-time Open champion on these links, hit into the Swilcan Burn on the first hole, didn't make a birdie until the 14th and had to scramble to salvage a 76, his worst score in 13 rounds as a pro at St. Andrews.

Woods was tied with 65-year-old Tom Watson, who had a 76 to start his final Open. Woods appears headed for a missed cut for the third time in his past four majors.

The buzz came from the top of the leaderboad, especially with Johnson and Spieth making this feel like the U.S. Open, except for the location and green color of the grass.

Spieth opened with two straight birdies and looked as solid as ever with the putter. Johnson also converted putts after wedges onto so many greens for birdie, along with a 7-iron to within 10 feet on the par-5 fifth hole for eagle.

They are playing together for the opening two rounds, and they laughed and chatted as if this were Thursday at a regular PGA Tour event.

"No chat about the U.S. Open at all, as I wouldn't imagine there would be, other than talking about the differences in the course," Spieth said. "But I enjoy playing with Dustin. I've played a lot of golf with him."

He also knows what to expect. Johnson is among the most athletic players in golf and the most powerful. He was dialed in at Chambers Bay, and it appeared as though the three weeks he spent away from competition didn't hurt him in the least. Spieth was along for the ride when Johnson stayed on the attack, often hitting it some 50 yards past Spieth. Along with five birdies and an eagle, Johnson saved par from 10 feet and 15 feet on the 16th and 17th holes as the wind gained strength.

"If DJ keeps driving it the way he is, then I'm going to have to play my best golf to have a chance," Spieth said.

Spieth was asked whether he thought he could beat Johnson, which he just did a month ago at the U.S. Open.

"I've played enough golf with him to where I believe in my skill set, that I can still trump that crazy ability that he has," Spieth said. "I expect when he stands on the tee, it's going to up there miles and down the fairway. I also expect that I can birdie each hole when I stand on the tee -- it just happens to be a different route."

Also Thursday, Wisconsin native Jordan Niebrugge shot the lowest first-round score by an amateur in an Open at St. Andrews with a 5-under 67.

Other amateurs did well on Thursday, too. Paul Kinnear, a 20-year-old from Liverpool, England, who also came through final qualifying, reached the turn at 5 under par only to drop three shots on Nos. 16-17 and finish at 2-under 70, the same as 22-year-old American Oliver Schniederjans.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.