Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen harvested a bumper crop of birdies, seven to be exact, to fire a first-round 63 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane Thursday, taking a two-stroke lead.
With a powerhouse field on course, largely in anticipation of next week’s Open Championship, Olesen did not record a bogey and slid his last birdie in from 30 feet on No. 17.
The present season has been a very quiet one for Olesen, outside of his second-place finish at the Mauritius Open in early May. He has missed the cut at eight of the 11 events he’s played in, and outside of Mauritius, his highest finish this year is a tie for 29th at the BMW International Open three weeks ago.
He has a two-stroke lead over a glut of six players at 5-under, including American Jimmy Walker, who ranks No. 2 in the current FedEx Cup points chase. Ranked 12th in the world, Walker also had a bogey-free round, and knocked in birdies on 16 and 18 to finish fast.
Walker is the only player in the Top 9 to have an automatic bid for next week’s Open Championship. There are three spots left in the field, and the top three finishers at this tournament not already a part of that field will earn them.
Four very well-known name are tied for 10th at 4-under: Americans Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler, England’s Justin Rose, and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
Kuchar enjoyed a fine book-end round, with eagles on No. 2 and No. 16 to overcome bogeyes on No. 7 and No. 12.
McDowell looked on pace to match Olesen atop the leaderboard, firing four straight birdies at the back half of the front nine, and sitting 6-under through 16 before bogeying 17 and 18 back to back.
Rose, in his first action since the US Open, bogeyed 17 but bounced back with a birdie on 18. The defending champion hasn’t won since his victory here in 2014.
American Phil Mickelson, the biggest “name” in the field with Rory McIlroy sidelined, is tied for 54th at 1-under. Mickelson started slowly, with bogeys on 3 and 4, before shooting 4-under between No. 5 and No. 16. He gave a stroke back with a bogey on the par-3, 194-yard No. 17.