Rory McIlroy made it look easy while Padraig Harrington had a photographer to thank for not losing a ball on route to similar four-under par 67 on day one of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
With seven Majors between them, both McIlroy and Harrington grabbed six birdies each to end the round trailing four shots from the front on the Renaissance course to the east of Edinburgh.
The foursome of the Italian duo of Edoardo Molinari and Nino Bertasio plus Frenchman Romain Wattel and visiting American Matt Kuchar head the field thanks to eight-under par 63s.
McIlroy was at his best over the opening nine grabbing birdies at the second, and fourth holes, where he brilliantly ‘stiffed’ his second shot to just two-feet, along with birdies at six and the seven.
He dropped shots at eight and 11 but regained those with birdies at 12 and 16.
“I thought I played quite nicely as I was 4-under through seven but then made a couple bogeys around the turn but then the wind picked-up on the back nine, so I felt like I did what I needed to do,” said McIlroy.
“I birdied the two par-5s and it was sort of tough to get it close to the holes coming in just because the wind had picked up.
“So overall, pretty pleased with how the day went.
“Looking at the board the scores are low, but it’s only the first round, and four-under is a decent start.”
Harrington was out from the 10th and started with a birdie but after birding the par-3 15th, the Dubliner was way left off the 16th tee, and with the three-minute ‘search’ clock ticking, Harrington was getting anxious.
“The three minutes now to find your golf ball is very short and it goes really quickly as I had a situation on 16 where I hit it left off the tee, and I had everyone looking for my ball,” he said.
“Thanks to a photographer who found it because I was sweating that it was getting so close to the three minutes.
“As it is, I managed to make birdie on the hole and that was good as I had it – birdied 16, so to make back-to-birdies really helped.
“I gave the photographer a ball but if I see him later in the week, I owe him a beer!
“I am happy with a 67 and while it definitely could have been better it definitely could have been worse as I hit it in the heavy rough a couple of times,” said Harrington.
Paul Dunne was in discussion with a Tour referee after his round where he was three-under par standing on his 17th tee only to walk-off with a double-bogey ‘6’. Dunne needs a good one tomorrow to fight his way up from minus-one after the course was picked apart on Thursday.
Graeme McDowell is well down the board too after bogeying his closing two holes in a 73 with GMac staring at a second missed cut in two weeks ahead of next week’s Open at Royal Portrush.
And former Masters winner, Trevor Immelman was the toast of the Tour sending crates of beer to the media, tour officials and the caddy lounge after an ace at the par-3 15th on route to a five-under 66.
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