Scottish Open. Rory Roars into the Lead

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Rory McIlroy roars into the lead at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.

Rory McIlroy   (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy / Getty Images

Rory recorded a course record at Royal Aberdeen, shooting a first round -7 under par 64, he reported that everything was on from the word go. He even drove the 13th green, while Ian Poulter was still on it;

“Everything was pretty much on. I controlled my ball flight really well which is the key to me playing well in these conditions and on these courses.”

“I’ve been working the last ten days on keeping the ball down, hitting easy shots and taking spin off  it and I went out there today and really trusted what I practiced.”

“I’m driving the ball really well and I feel if I can get driver in my hand and have an advantage on the field I should do it. Going out this morning in these conditions I thought anything in the 60s would be a good score so to shoot something better than that is pleasing.”

“I told Poulter it was a three-wood but it was a driver. He was on the green trying to flex his muscles. I’ve got off to a lot of good starts and tended to fall away. Hopefully that won’t be the case this week.”

“It’s more mental than anything but I am really comfortable with my game at the minute.”

There are two players tied in second place at -6 under par after opening rounds of 65, they are Kristoffer Broberg and Ricardo Gonzalez.

Ricardo is happy with his team Argentina reaching the World Cup finals, and also having his son on his bag;

“I think it’s one of the best rounds of this year and that’s why I’m very happy now. To make 65 on that wonderful course, with my son on the bag, that’s great.”

“I enjoyed the match and maybe this is the key to play well, to relax and enjoy the day. I would like Argentina to win the World Cup and also if I can win here it would be amazing. It’s my dream.”

Defending Champion Phil Mickelson was four shots off the lead after an opening round of -3 under par  68, that featured an Eagle, two birdies and a solitary bogey caused by a three putt on the 18th green.

Scottish Open. Phil;s Presence Prevails.

Phil Mickelson made his presence felt in the Highlands by winning the Scottish Open in a dramatic shoot-out with Branden Grace on the Castle Stuart Golf Course in Scotland.

Phil Mickelson  (Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson / Getty Images

Initially Phil  required just a par on the par five 18th hole  to secure victory in regulation play, but he  uncharacteristically took three from the edge of the green, to set up a play-off. Both Phil and Branden finished on -17 under par for the tournament, but Phil managed a birdie next time around on the last hole, to claim his first victory on British soil. He was rightly ecstatic;

This is really cool, I have been coming here for some time and had some opportunities and I almost let it slip away today. To come out on top was terrific. I was so mad at myself for mentally losing my focus that I came out on that 18th pretty focused to make a four. I started coming here around 2000 or so and spent a lot of years here enjoying my time in Scotland and enjoying this competition, I’ve come close a couple of times, and to finally win, that feels great. It’s important to me, and it’s probably the biggest challenge of my career hitting the shots that are required here. And so to win here and to play well here, finally win on a links golf course, it really means a lot to me, and it also builds my confidence heading into future Scottish and British Opens.”

Tied in third place at -15 under pat were Henrik Stenson and J.B. Hansen.

Scottish Open, Molinari misses out in Play-Off

Francesco Molinari lost the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in a play-off to Indian Jeev Milhka Singh.

Singh hits winning note

Jeev Milkha Singh (Getty Images)

Jeev Milkha Singh had set an early clubhouse target of -17 under par, and was drinking tea watching the rest try and catch him. Francesco finally did, forcing the play-off. Jeev won with a birdie at the first extra hole, the 18th, in the play-off against Francesco, Jeev calmly sinking a 15 foot putt. Francesco’s birdie attempt, from 25 feet had come up well short of the hole, giving the chnace to Jeev, which he took.

Both players had finished the tournament at -17 under par, Jeev shooting a final 67, -5 under par. Francesco could only manage a par round of 72, that’s 10 shots more than his opening round of 62.

With this win Jeev gains a place in the Open next week, and thinks God has been kind to him;

“I was just enjoying a cup of tea and some chocolate cake and watching it on television, and suddenly got excited. I think God has been kind, and I think the field came back and I put myself in a to go in for a play-off , I’m very fortunate.
I would like to thank a lot of people who have been by my side the last three, four years that have been a struggle for me with the injuries: My family, my friend who coaches me. Janet, who was on my bag, my sponsors who stood by me like Callaway, UPS, Societe Generale, golf in Dubai. All of these guys have been great and supported me through a tough time and I want to thank them all for this. It has been really tough, frustrating more than anything else. You feel like your game is coming back and another injury creeps up, but I just stuck myself in there and said that you need to work on the physical side, and I worked hard on that. Everything has paid off, and I just want to think about the good things and not what’s past and I want to look towards the future now.”

Francesco was obviously disappointed;

“It was a good week, positive. It’s obviously disappointing at the moment not to finish it off. The two putts at 15 and 16 that I missed made all the difference in the end.”

Alex Noren and Scotland”s Marc Warren were tied in third place at -16 under par. World Number One and defending champion Luke Donald  finished tied for 16th with, among others, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington.

Scottish Open, Marvelous Molinari in Control

Molinari lights up Inverness to lead at Castle Stuart

Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)

Marvelous Francesco Molinari has taken control of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in Inverness, Scotland. Francesco had a sparkling third round of -5 under par, 67, to lead the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at -17 under par. Francesco has enjoyed arguably the best run of his career with the putter recently, which has been a key factor in his success this week in the first three rounds. He is obviously aiming to win tomorrow, but takes heart at the way he is playing going into The Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

” My golf and my form are getting better and better. Obviously it’s a very good time to be playing this well, and I’ll just see how it goes tomorrow. But however it goes, I know I’m going to be at Lytham playing well and so it’s just a case of keep doing the same stuff and see what happens. I think for the moment, obviously to win here is the first goal.  But it’s good to know, not only from this week, but from last week, as well, that I’m playing well and putting well.”

Dane Anders Hansen is in second spot on his own, thanks to a -7 under par, 65, third round score, and a total of -16 under par.      Anders said of his steady round;

“I played steady today and did not make many mistakes and just kept the ball in play and gave myself some opportunities, and so it was pretty steady. It’s a new day tomorrow.  We’ll see what is going to happen. Francesco is obviously playing very, very good golf at the moment. I had a great finish last week, so it’s going to be fun to play with him. It’s very, very difficult to pick a winner. The scores are so low. It’s very difficult to keep making putts and to keep making birdies.”

Soren Kjeldsen and Scotland’s Marc Warren share third place at -15 under par, Soren is aiming for a good day tomorrow as he targets the one qualification spot available for the Open. He reported;

“I would love to play. If I play well tomorrow and I get in, it’s a bonus, but I have plans to have a little bit of a rest and be away from the game a little bit. If I get the chance to go to Lytham, I will obviously smile and go at it.”

As a local boy, Marc would love to win his home tournament and admitted he had a lot of chances today;

” It was one of the most stress free days really. I felt really in control of everything I was doing, which was different from the first two days. I felt like I was fighting it a little bit, especially off the tee.  But today drove it really well and had a lot of chances. “

There are four players at -14 under par, including another two Scotsmen, Martin Laird and Peter Whitehead, who would also be very keen to win their home Championship. With the same score are American Phil Mickelson and Alexander Noren.

 Alexander, who was Francesco playing partner today, and was really matching Francesco shot for shot until he suffered the ignominy of losing a ball, due to a poor tee shot on the 12th hole. That mishap, which resulted in Alex carding an eight on the hole leaves him three shots off the lead at -14 under par. Martin Laird said he thinks his friends in the gallery will help him tomorrow;

“I did exactly what I needed to; to get myself back in the mix here. My goal was to shoot a low one, and I obviously did that and I’m happy. I’ve got friends and family in the gallery but also the local people cheering me on.  It was great, seemed like every birdie I made, I picked up a few more people and it was great to hear them willing you on.”

Everyone will still be acutely aware of the presence of Phil Mickelson, at just three shots back he is a fierce competitor. Also one shot further back is World number one Luke Donald, I think he will be firmly in the mix coming down the stretch Sunday afternoon.

Scottish Open, Noren & Molinari tied at top

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - Day 2 Highlights  (Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari/ Getty Images

The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, this tournament is tied at the top after the second round, with Alexander Noren joining first round leader Francesco Molinari. Both players are at -12 under par for the tournament, Alexander enjoyed a second round of -6 under par 66 and Francesco had a more conservative -2 under par 70.

Alexander Noren/ Getty Images

The top of the board is now quite compact, with two players at -11 under par, one of which is Matteo Manassero, the Italian teenager who had a marvelous -8 under par round. Shooting the same -8 under score was Ricardo Gonzales from Argentina, and he is with Matteo in second spot.

They must all be looking over their collective shoulders at the looming presence of world number one, Luke Donald, at -9 under par for the tournament is very nicely placed to attack the course on the weekend. Alongside of Luke with the same tournament score is German Martin Kaymer, who seems to be returning to some good form and will also be contesting coming down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.

Luke Donald has admitted the pressure of not winning a Major, mainly a mental approach problem;

“I’ve realised it for a while, I’ve understood that for probably a couple of years. I know it’s a difference in myself. I get a little bit more agitated, a little bit more anxious.”

Phil Mickelson recovered nicely from his poor first round to fire in a -8 under par 64 second round and is certainly not out of this tournament. Five shots adrift with two rounds to go, that target is easily surmountable to man with his exquisite skills.

The cut for this tournament was set at -4 under par, and of those failing to meet that mark were, Paul Lawrie -2, Paul McGinley -2 and Colin Montgomerie -1.

Paul Lawrie, who was caddied by his 16-year-old son, was very disappointed not to make the cut. Putting was the main cause of his problems, perhaps Paul should contact White Dragon Golf about their new generation putter. Paul said;

“I hit the ball really good and didn’t miss a fairway, something I’ve not done for a long time. That’s the positive, but putting was the problem again. In fact, it was awful. I shot three under having 33 putts . I’ve been struggling on the greens the last few weeks, to be honest. I know where it comes from, which is the good thing, so it won’t take long to fix it. I’ll put in a couple of hours over the next couple of days. It’s a pity as you want to put up a decent show in your home tournament, but you can’t putt like that and expect to make the cut, never mind contend.”

Scottish Open, Francesco Molinari shoots 62.

Francesco Molinari  (Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)

The Scottish Open was set alight by a magnificent first round of -10 under par, 62 from Francesco Molinari at Castle Stuart on Thursday. Francesco leads the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after a blast of  ten birdies, and in so doing set a new course record 62 at Castle Stuart Golf Links. That feat was accomplished against a field that included World Number One Luke Donald and ten Major Champions. Francesco is in fine current form, he finished in second place in the Alstom Open de France on Sunday thanks to a closing round of 64. Luke Donald is handily placed with a first round of -5 under par for a 67, he knows that tournaments are not won on the first day, and some more solid play from him will put him in contention come Sunday afternoon.

Francesco and his elder brother Edoardo were  partners in The Ryder Cup, just after Edoardo had won the title at Loch Lomond two years ago. Edoardo is currently recovering from wrist surgery he received two weeks ago and is likely to spend the entire summer rehabilitating. Francesco was thinking of his ailing elder brother, as well as his good form;

“It would be nice to do well this week, for him as well, to cheer him up a little bit. I know it’s not going to last forever, but I hope to keep this going a little bit longer, obviously next week, but the next month or so is really big for The Ryder Cup. That probably more than The Open, is in my mind.”

Francesco is  a Ryder Cup and Omega Mission Hills World Cup winner, and also has a World Golf Championship victory to his name, he is now eyeing a Major Championship to add to his trophy list.

In second spot at -8 under par with a round of 64 is Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares , with two other players another shot back 0n -7 under par, Søren Kjeldson from Denmark and Raphaël Jacquelin of France.

Phil Mickelson had a poor opening round of +1 over par 73, and now needs something special just to make the cut and keep playing links golf in his preparation for The Open. You have to wonder about Phil’s scheduling, he has left his wife and children on vacation in Italy, missing out on a tour of the Vatican, to come to Scotland and prepare for The Open. He surely can not be in the right frame of mind to seriously compete, only the top 65 and ties make it through the 36-hole cut and Phil is not currently inside the top 100. Phil was not expecting help from above;

“I think everybody is looked on equally and you have to make your own destiny.”

Tomorrow is another day, and I look forward to reporting on which players survive the dreaded cut.