Defending champion Rose keen to improve at Gullane

England's Justin Rose tees off at the 10th hole.England's Justin Rose tees off at the 10th hole.
England's Justin Rose tees off at the 10th hole.
Justin Rose rated his game at just 50 per cent despite remaining firmly in contention to defend his Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title at Gullane yesterday.

Looking to become the first player to win the event two years running following his victory at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago, Rose carded a second consecutive 66 to join Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Ryan Palmer, Matt Nixon and Johan Carlsson in second, three shots behind surprise leader Daniel Brooks.

The former US Open champion recovered from a bogey on the first with five birdies in the next seven holes, but could only manage nine straight pars on the back nine.

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The closing stretch was not without incident however, with Rose’s tee shot on the 16th hitting an elderly spectator on the head and causing a teenage fan to faint at the sight of the resulting blood.

“You can’t quite see where the spectator line is on that hole and when I saw the ball bounce up I was hoping it had maybe hit one of the white stakes,” Rose said. “Whenever you see the ball jump into the air, it’s not hitting anywhere soft.

“I was pretty concerned walking up there. There didn’t seem to be a commotion, but then I saw someone was on the ground. You hope it’s not a kid, you hope it’s not a woman; obviously it was an elderly gentleman, but he took it like a trooper and was talking to me so that was slightly reassuring.

“He told me had been coming to tournaments for years and years and had never got hit before.”

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Speaking about his round, Rose said his game was “running at 50 per cent”, adding: “There are still a couple of loose shots that I am getting away with on this course that I wouldn’t on other courses.

“But I feel like I have managed my game well, played the hard holes well and kept it clean.”

Playing partner Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 Open a mile down the road at Muirfield, was in danger of missing the halfway cut when he bogeyed the 11th and 12th, but responded in style with a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th to finish three under.

“For me to make the cut the way I putted the first two days is surprising,” the 45-year-old said. “I feel really good about some of the things I’ve been working on in my golf swing. The last piece will be the putter. I don’t want to worry about that right now.”

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Lowry, who was in contention for the US Open last month before finishing ninth, matched Rose by carding his second successive 66 and credited his recent good form to a settled home life.

“I’ve settled down a lot and matured a lot,” said Lowry, who won the 2009 Irish Open while still an amateur. “Everything in my life is a lot more stable and my golf is reaping the benefits.

“I’ve always had belief in myself. No matter what tournament I play I feel like I can do well and compete. Whether it’s a normal tournament or a major, I just want to play well.

“I think a lot of people have been caught up in recent weeks about me winning majors; I think I’ve got a lot to achieve before I win a major. If one gets in the way between now and then, I’ll take it happily. That’s the way I feel my career is going.”

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Brooks, who fired four birdies and an eagle in his 65, won the Madeira Islands Open in 2014, an event reduced to 36 holes due to bad weather delays and overshadowed by the death of Alastair Forsyth’s caddie Iain McGregor on the course during the final round.

“I’ve played some terrible golf since then but it’s started to come back,” said Brooks, who had missed 13 cuts in a row this season before finishing 20th in France last week. “To miss that many cuts, it does get you down. But you only need one good week.

“Madeira feels like a long time ago now. With Mac passing away, I didn’t have time to celebrate, it wasn’t a nice feeling. I got a win but it put a downer on it.”

First round leader Thorbjorn Olesen amazingly missed the halfway cut after slumping to a 77 on Friday, 14 shots worse than his opening 63.

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Hull’s Richard Finch is tied for sixth, four shots back of the lead, after adding a second-round 68 to his opening 65.

He had three birdies, at holes five, eight and 14, and just the one dropped shot at the 11th.

Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick carded a second consecutive 67 with half of his six birdies coming at his final three holes.

Harrogate’s John Parry missed the cut by two. He suffered a double bogey 5 at the third, recovered the strokes yielded there with birdies at five and six, but immediately dropped another at seven.

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His back nine contained three more birdies and another bogey and his level-par aggregate (71 69) was not good enough to earn him a place over the weekend.

Karrie Webb and Marina Alex led the way in a weather-affected first round of the US Women’s Open Championship.

Australia veteran Webb, seeking her third US Women’s Open title and her eighth major win, carded a four-under-par round of 66 in Pennsylvania – as did America’s Alex. However, stormy weather at Lancaster Country Club meant play was suspended with 56 players still on the course – with the final group having seven holes to play.

Webb was full of praise for the course, saying: “I used every club in my bag except the six iron. When they set up a course like that to use every club, it’s a good set-up.” Webb and Alex were a shot clear of Amy Yang (67), Choi Na-yeon and Jane Park, although the latter two fell victim to the conditions - respectively having three and four holes of their first round still to play.