Gallacher, Ramsay top Scots
Fowler’s Scottish Open bid off to a confident start
American Rickie Fowler lived up to his tag as one of the pre-tournament favourites by carding a blemish-free five-under-par 67 in the opening round of the $7 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The US Ryder Cup star was an early starter alongside Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson at Dundonald Links and he treated the appreciative crowds to some sparkling golf with five birdies in the pleasant morning conditions in Ayrshire.
Starting at the 10th, Fowler birdied 13 and 14 to reach the turn in 34. A hat-trick of birdies from the third saw him come home in 33 and leave him pleased with his opening effort.
“It is pleasing to come back here to Scotland and get off to a good start,” he said.
“Birdies are good, bogeys are bad. It was a clean card so I’m off to a good start, made some good par saves.
“I love playing links golf but it doesn’t mean it is going to be any easier for myself. It’s all about putting ourselves into a good position to win on Sunday.
“If you come to this tournament and don’t have the confidence you can win it, you shouldn’t be teeing it up.
“I know I can win the golf tournament but it’s about executing the swings and pulling off the shots. I did that today but there is a long way to go.”
In contrast, playing partner McIlroy struggled, slumping to four over par after just four holes.
The four-time Major winner battled back to finish with a two-over par 74, three birdies on his back nine offsetting a poor front nine of 40 which included a double-bogey 6 at the par-4 13th.
Open champion Stenson carded a level-par 72 despite a triple-bogey 7 on the 10th, his opening hole.
2015 winner Fowler was joined on five under by compatriot Paul Peterson, Aussie Andrew Dodt, Englishmen Ian Poulter and Callum Shinkwin, while Ireland’s Padraig Harrington completed the group on -5 with a good finish as the weather deteriorated late in the day.
Highlight of Poulter’s round was a superb eagle 3 on the 14th when the Englishman fired a 5-iron to two feet.
“I was in play a lot, gave myself chances, took a couple of them, rolled a couple of nice 25-footers in and there was no real drama,” he said.
Mikko Ilonen was the leader at the end of the first round, the Finn carding an impressive seven birdies in his round of 65.
Starting at the 10th, he went to the turn in 34, two-under par. He made his charge on his inward nine, rattling in five birdies in the space of six holes on his way to a closing 31.
“65 is the round of the season, really,” he said. “It’s nice to get something going and make a few birdies and no mistakes on the card.”
Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay led the Scottish contingent, both carding four-under par 68s on a day which saw 10,545 spectators come through the gates.
“It was a tough day,” said Gallacher.
“It’s one of these days that you have to kind of use the head and if you hit it in the rough, you had to play away from pins. I’m off to a good start and delighted with that.”
Ramsay continued the form which saw him finish runner-up in the Irish Open last week, a birdie 4 on the 586-yard last completing a good day at the office.
“I was very happy with the way I played,” he said. “It was just a case of staying patient and letting the momentum come.”
Marc Warren came in with a level-par 72, one ahead of Jack Doherty. David Drysdale carded a two-over 74, the same mark as Russell Knox, while Martin Laird returned a 75. Former Open champion Paul Lawrie opened up with a disappointing 77. Scots amateur Sandy Scott began his championship with a six-over 78.
65 Mikko Ilonen
67 Rickie Fowler, Andrew Dodt, Paul Peterson, Ian Poulter, Callum Shinkwin, Padraig Harrington.
68 Matt Kuchar, Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay, Benjamin Hebert, Paul Dunne, Magnus A Carlsson.
69 Adam Scott.
70 Luke Donald, Andy Sullivan.
71 Jason Dufner.
72 Henrik Stenson, Stewart Cink.
73 Tyrrell Hatton, Andrew Johnston.
74 Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Patrick Reed.
75 Graeme Mcdowell.