|Scottish Open first-round leaderboard (US unless stated)|
|-7: List; -6: Westwood (Eng), Fowler, Dantorp (Swe), Fernandez (Spa), Rock (Eng); -5: Whiteford (Sco), Southgate (Eng), Hatton (Eng), Reed, Karlsson (Swe), Gurrier (Fra, Sterne (SA), Frittelli (SA)|
|Selected others: -4: Willet (Eng), Poulter (Eng), Ramsay (Sco), Knox (Sco); -3: Rose (Eng); Level: Mickelson|
American Luke List equalled the Gullane course record to lead from a group of players including England’s Lee Westwood at the Scottish Open.
List’s nine birdies led to a seven-under 63 in what was his first round in the UK “in over a dozen years”.
Westwood is joined a shot off the pace by England’s Robert Rock, American Rickie Fowler, Sweden’s Jens Dantorp and Spain’s Scott Fernandez.
Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, ranked 1215 in the world, is five under.
His mark of 65 is shared by eight players including English duo Matthew Southgate and Tyrrell Hatton, and Masters champion Patrick Reed.
Ian Poulter and Danny Willett – who has dropped to world-number 337 since winning the Masters in 2016 – join Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Russell Knox on four under.
Fowler tuning for Carnoustie
Timid conditions on the east-coast course helped 96 of the 156-strong field shoot under par, though five-time major champion Phil Mickelson ended the day with a level-par 70.
Many in attendance hope to find touch before next week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, while three players can qualify for the major with a top-10 finish.
Fowler, winner of the Scottish Open at Gullane in 2015, said he was intent on “taking advantage” of conditions and followed three early birdies with an eagle on the sixth to set a blistering pace.
“It would have been nice to keep it clean after the bogey and maybe get a couple more coming in, but the back nine is definitely playing tougher,” said Fowler, who dropped one shot on the 13th.
“Carnoustie is probably a bit firmer and faster than here right now, but this place could dry out over the weekend.
“It’s great to be over here playing on similar ground, feeling how much the wind affects the ball, and just getting acclimatised.
“I think this is probably the best preparation you can get.”
‘I’m trying to not to get excited’
Westwood’s bogey-free round puts him in the early mix for a first European Tour title since 2014. The former world number one has dropped to number 110 in the rankings and is no longer automatically eligible for some tournaments.
“I’m 45 now so I can’t play as much as I used to, I’m certainly fresh,” said Westwood, who will be one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains when Europe attempt to regain the Ryder Cup in Paris in September.
“But I’m still willing to go out there and practice and work hard on the range and if you’re willing to do that your hunger levels are high.
“I’m gradually able to take the form on the range on to the golf course and I played lovely today. I didn’t put myself in any trouble and gave myself a lot of chances.
“I’m trying not to get excited at all, I’m just trying to control what I can and if it happens, it happens. I’ve never got too far in front of myself and that’s why I have been a prolific winner throughout my career.”
Oosthuizen out as Rock eyes Open chance
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, Open Champion in 2010, withdrew from the Gullane event before Thursday’s start due to a neck injury but expects to be on the tee at Carnoustie.
In contrast, Rock, 41, is one of those hoping to secure a place in the Open as he chases a first European Tour win since 2012.
“It’s the last chance and it’s always disappointing to not play the Open,” said Rock after his bogey-free 64.
“I’m going as a coach anyway (he coaches fellow Englishman Matt Wallace) so I’ll be there. But I’d like to be playing.”