Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson outshone the four members of last week’s winning team in the field on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Wilson, who played in Europe’s only defeat this century, at Valhalla in 2008, carded a superb eight-under-par 64 at Carnoustie, one of the three courses used for the pro-am event.
That gave the world No 792 a one-shot lead over France’s Raphael Jacquelin, with Ryder Cup vice-captain Padraig Harrington a shot further back alongside fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, whose 66 was the best score of the day at Kingsbarns.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher was the best-placed of the Gleneagles quartet after a 68, with fellow rookie Victor Dubuisson returning a 71, world No 1 Rory McIlroy a 73 and Martin Kaymer a 74. European captain Paul McGinley shot 72 in just his second European Tour event since July.
Wilson has finished runner-up nine times on the European Tour, including in this event in 2009, but lost his card in 2012 and is currently trying to regain it via the Challenge Tour.
“Looking at the forecast, getting Carnoustie out of the way is theoretically the best thing, but you’ve still got to go and play and shoot a good score to take advantage of it, and I’m delighted that I have,” he said.
The 34-year-old won one point from two matches on his Ryder Cup debut six years ago – partnering Henrik Stenson to victory over Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim after being four down – but added: “It’s been a while since I played like that, though.
“I want to be back there, definitely, and it’s inspiring to watch. The boys played awesome last week. You look at the team, they are so strong now, got so many big, big names, big players in there.
“It will be tough to get back in there but for me, you watch it and then you come and play a tournament like this, which is fantastic. Dunhill Links is always one of the best tournaments of the year.”
Harrington was on course to match Wilson’s score until he bogeyed the final two holes at Carnoustie, the course where he won the first of his back-to-back Open titles in 2007.
“You go out, your head is down and you’re working away and you get on the first tee and the scorer reminds you that you won the Open Championship here, that’s kind of nice,” said Harrington, who has slipped to 324th in the world rankings after six years without a win on a major worldwide tour.
“That was a little boost on the first tee box. That sort of thing is a good reminder. The spectators, that sort of thing, does remind you of good days back in 2007.
“Every week is a new week on Tour. I certainly enjoyed last week and I particularly enjoyed Sunday night. Maybe my preparation wasn’t ideal coming in here on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but I know the golf courses well so I didn’t have to play a lot before I got into the tournament to play here. I’m comfortable on them.”
McIlroy was an approximate eight under par in beating Rickie Fowler 5&4 in the singles at Gleneagles, but managed just one birdie in his round yesterday.
“A little bit flat, if I’m honest,” McIlroy responded when asked about his round. “Obviously with the crowds and everything we were playing in front of last week, to come here it seems a little quiet out there, but it was fun to get to play with my dad.
“I wish I had played a bit better and made a few more birdies but hopefully that will happen over the next couple of days.
“I want to win every week and I want to play well this week and at least give myself a chance. It was not the best score out there for me, but we got the hardest course out of the way.”
A shot behind McIlroy was Sheffield’s Danny Willett after an opening 74 at Carnoustie.
But it was a superb opening day for Harrogate’s John Parry, whose 68 was just a shot off St Andrews leaders Robert Rock and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui. Malton’s Simon Dyson was six shots off the pace with a 73.
At Kingsbarns, Hull’s Richard Finch fired a round of 72.
England’s Florentyna Parker sat one shot off the lead after the opening round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Parker shot a first-round 66 to finish on four under, a score only bettered by Spain’s Maria Hernandez, who required a shot fewer to complete her round and take the overnight lead.
Hernandez recorded birdies at the third, sixth, seventh and 13th holes before eagling the 15th to set the standard on the opening day’s play at the Chantaco Golf Club.
Parker was tied for second with Hernandez’s compatriot Carlota Ciganda and Morocco’s Maha Haddioui, while Anais Maggetti, Nikki Campbell, Isabelle Boineau, Sophie Sandolo and Azahara Munoz formed a five-strong group a shot further back on three under.
English trio Hannah Burke, Felicity Johnson and Charley Hull were among a group of six tied for 10th on two under.