IT was déjà vu for Lothians ace Raymond Russell as he experienced mixed fortunes in his opening round of the £200,000 Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore.
“Today was the story of my season,” declared the former European Tour winner after carding a two-over-par 73 on a day when the pace was set at Macdonald Spey Valley by Chile’s Mark Tullo and Englishman Jason Barnes with 65s.
Level par after seven holes on the Highlands course, Russell suddenly found himself two-over without feeling he’d done anything wrong.
His first birdie of the day went down on the card at the par-5 13th, but his only other birdie of the day at the 17th sandwiched back-to-back bogeys at the 15th and 16th.
The 41-year-old was watched by his mum and dad, having stopped off to see them in Prestonpans en route to Aviemore from his home in North London.
“I played ten holes at Longniddry after starting out at 8.30pm on Monday night and it was fantastic,” he admitted.
His journey home will also be broken by a stop in the Garden County – this time to play in Ian Woosnam’s charity event at Archerfield Links at the beginning of next week.
Of the 23 Scots in the field for this week’s £200,000 event, Russell is among four who have a Lothians connection.
Paul McKechnie, who is attached to the Braid Hills Golf Centre, took pride of place among that quartet in the opening round.
Late in the day, he came in with a one-under-par 70 to sit joint 40th heading into the second round.
Archerfield ace Lloyd Saltman ran up a double-bogey at the 12th on the demanding Dave Thomas-designed course in the shadow of the Cairngorms.
But he also signed for five birdies en route to a 72 – a decent effort given that he’s lacking the competitive edge of most others in the field after becoming a father for the first time eight weeks ago.
His younger brother, Zack, also has a chance of making tonight’s cut after overcoming an early rise to match Russell’s opening effort.