Linlithgow pro Peter Whiteford two off lead in Scottish Open

Peter Whiteford reacts after his tee shot on the 16th
Peter Whiteford reacts after his tee shot on the 16th
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Peter Whiteford swapped the pro shop at Linlithgow for a place in the spotlight at Gullane in the opening round of the $7 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

The 37-year-old opened with a brilliant five-under-par 65 to sit just two shots off the lead, held by American ace Luke List.

The effort came in Whiteford’s 200th European Tour appearance but first on the circuit in nearly two years.

He effectively called time on his playing career due to getting arthritis in both hips and came through a weekend qualifier at Longniddry at the weekend to earn this unexpected 
opportunity.

“That was as nervous as I’ve been for a wee while,” admitted Whiteford after sparking a score that matched matched the effort of Masters champion Patrick Reed with two opening birdies then adding five more.

“As much as I enjoy working at Linlithgow Golf Club, any professional athlete who stops misses the buzz, the adrenaline and all the rest that comes with it. That’s the bit I found hard to deal with when I finished playing. So I loved every second of it.”

Whiteford, who lives in Kirkcaldy, added: “My hips have been deteriorating over the last wee while. Last year, I just felt it wasn’t enough to do less practice and play fewer events. I felt that was for better players than myself. So that is the reason I chapped it on the head. But you never know, if this week goes great, I wouldn’t rule anything out.

“I would love to be back out here playing. The injury is the same one Andy Murray had basically, so there is treatment. You can get it done pretty quickly – but it’s quite expensive. And there are no guarantees I would get back on Tour.”

Edinburgh-based Richie Ramsay is three off the lead and afterwards revealed how an equipment adjustment helped him hit a 66.

“I changed the lie angle on my irons this week and what a difference. I hit so many shots out there exactly how I wanted to,” said Ramsay.

“I just need to putt a bit better. I hit a great shot into 17th to two feet but it bobbled left on me and horse-shoed out. But I made up for that with lovely shot into the last for a birdie-3.

“I’m really happy with the way I played. It was more what I’d call ‘Richie Ramsay golf’. I was very steady and able to pick off shots.

“I’ve flattened the lie a bit more, just by half a degree. I was really struggling in France and last week in Ireland I just didn’t have it quite right. The ball goes through the turf way better and I’ve got complete control of the ball flight.

“When you know you’ve got that, you can swing freely and hit good shots.”

Ramsay was among six players to take part in Tuesday night’s Hero Challenge at Edinburgh Castle and admitted: “I was more nervous there than I was on the first tee today. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Us bringing golf to the city was brilliant and the you won’t get a better backdrop in Scotland for an event like that.

“I’m all in favour of stuff like that and when they asked me if I wanted to do it, I jumped at the opportunity.”

On the day he was leaving Bonnyrigg to move to Fife, Jamie McLeary opened with a 68, one less than David Drysdale while both Duncan Stewart and Stephen Gallacher carded 70s.

“I played s***,” said Gallacher after his effort. “I struggled with my driving again and was in the rough a lot.

“It’s technical. I just can’t get it on the fairway and on one hole I had a penalty drop. It’s all off the tee.

“I played the last two holes better and felt I got something out them after hitting three cracking shots to finish.”