US golfer Johannes Veerman plays from a bunker on the 15th hole during his first round on day one of the 149th British Open Golf Championship at Royal St George’s, Sandwich in south-east England on Thursday. SANDWICH: The long-awaited return of the British Open got under way under blue skies at Royal St. George’s on Thursday as former champion Louis Oosthuizen shot to the top of the leaderboard with a six under par round of 64. Another previous Open winner Jordan Spieth is just one shot back, alongside fellow American Brian Harman. England’s Richard Bland fired the first shot of the 149th Open Championship, which was delayed a year by the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic. Up to 32,000 fans will take to the course in Sandwich, Kent, each day as Covid-19 restrictions ease in England despite a spike in positive cases. Oosthuizen has been frustrated so far this year in his attempt to add to his only major triumph, a dominant victory in the 2010 British Open at St Andrews. The South African finished second in this year’s two most recent majors, the US PGA Championship and US Open, and is now in contention again. After starting with seven straight pars, Oosthuizen accelerated around the turn with seven birdies in 10 holes. Spieth has refound his form of late with a victory at the Texas Open in April his first in nearly four years. Spieth shot up the leaderboard thanks to four consecutive birdies between the fifth and the eighth holes and finished strongly by picking up two more shots at 15 and 16. Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes, on his British Open debut, South African Dylan Frittelli and American veteran Stewart Cink are two off the lead after rounds of 66. World number five Xander Schauffele, Olympic champion Justin Rose and former Masters winner Danny Willett are among those on three under. Pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm, the recently crowned US Open champion, was stung by a double bogey at the par four ninth, but finished with a birdie for a one over round of 71. Shane Lowry, the reigning British Open champion, made a nightmare start to his title defence with bogeys on the opening two holes before the Irishman pulled a shot back to finish on one over. Brooks Koepka admitted he is no fan of the Royal St. George’s course, but the serial contender for major championships kept himself in the hunt with a round of 69 despite bogeying the 18th. Bryson DeChambeau accepted before the tournament his booming drives off the tee may have to be tempered this week, with staying out of the lush rough the key to remaining in contention for the weekend. However, DeChambeau consistently found himself hacking out of what he described as “diabolical” hay in an up and down round that contained four birdies and five bogeys for a 71. Rory McIlroy’s quest to end a seven-year major drought got off to a much better start than at the Northern Irishman’s last British Open appearance. He birdied the first on Thursday after a quadruple bogey on home soil at the opening hole in Portrush two years ago.