Lothians star Stephen Gallacher heaped praise on Thorbjorn Olesen after the Dane dished up a sizzling performance to set the Scottish Open pace at Gullane.
The 25-year-old carded a seven-under-par 63 in East Lothian to hold a two-shot lead after the opening exchanges in the £3.25 million Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event.
With a composite layout being used this week, it was a new Championship Course record but Gallacher shot down suggestions that it made this week’s venue look easy.
“Out here there’s always someone that shoots around seven-under – even on the courses that look unbelievably hard,” said the Bathgate man.
“Thorbjorn obviously played well and he no doubt had a day on the greens where he holed a lot of putts. Make no mistake, you’ve got to play well round here.”
Olesen admitted he’d done just that in a flawless effort that was made up of halves of 32 and 31 in favourable scoring conditions.
“You could attack the course a little bit,” said the 25-year-old, a two-times European Tour winner. “And, in addition to hitting quite a lot of fairways – something I’ve been struggling with – I holed some great putts.”
His closest challengers heading into the second round included American ace Jimmy Walker, who birdied two of the last three holes in his flawless 65. Two of his compatriots, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar, ended the first day a shot further back while Phil Mickelson, the 2013 winner, had a 69 on a day when he “struggled on the greens”.
Justin Rose opened his title defence with a 66, matching the effort earlier in the day by another former champion, Graeme McDowell.
Gallacher, who closed with a 63 at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago to finish joint-fourth, started here with a bogey and was still one-over after six.
But, digging in, the 40-year-old covered the final 12 holes in three-under and, in the circumstances, was satisfied with his day’s work.
“It was quite tricky,” said the Ryder Cup player. “The wind was up in the afternoon and that’s generally links golf.
“I don’t know what the forecast is but over the four days it evens itself out.
“I hit a lot of good fairways in the middle and didn’t quite get it close enough due to a few ropey iron shots. That left me having to two-putt from long distance and then I had chances from ten feet at both the 17th and 18th. But both were on bits of the greens that I’ve never been on, leaving me with slopey putts.” Watched by a crowd of 13,547, Gallacher reckons the opening day’s play has set the event up to be a huge success with both players and spectators.
“I’ve not heard one guy say anything negative – everybody is really positive,” he said of his fellow European Tour players and, in some cases, PGA Tour players. The greens are unbelievable and the course is fair. It’s just right in front of you.”
Looking forward to the next three days, he added: “I just think any time you’re playing in Scotland, it’s brilliant.
“As is the definition out there with the fescues and the way they have cut the fairways straight up the middle.
“It’s very, very similar to last year at Royal Aberdeen. It’s just two good courses in great condition and good fields playing them.”