Jamie Donaldson set his sights on an emotional return to Royal Portrush after claiming a share of the clubhouse lead on day one of the ASI Scottish Open.
Donaldson won the Irish Open at Portrush in 2012 but is currently not in the field for next week’s Open Championship at the same venue after being sidelined for seven months following wrist surgery.
Three places in the year’s final major are up for grabs for players not already exempt who finish in the top 10 at the Renaissance Club, where the former Ryder Cup star carded an opening seven-under-par 64 to share the lead with Andy Sullivan, Thomas Aiken and Kalle Samooja.
“To play next week would be huge,” said Donaldson, who secured the winning point at Gleneagles in 2014 but is currently ranked 1,199th in the world. “If I can get into a position to get in that would be just fantastic and I would be really, really buzzing to get back there.
“I played great today, I just need to keep going, try to hit the same shots as I’ve been hitting. I’ve been playing quite well but getting nothing out of it.
“It has been tough getting going again after seven months out, the momentum is not quite there but it’s a case of keeping going until you start to put it all together again.”
Donaldson has missed the cut in four of his six events in 2019, including last week’s Irish Open where Sullivan finished joint second behind Spain’s Jon Rahm.
“Last week was amazing, finishing tied second and having a chance to get close to winning and again a great start this week,” said Sullivan, who won three times in 2015 to secure a Ryder Cup debut the following year.
“It’s all about building momentum and fortunately my game is starting to really feel like it’s coming back to where I want to, we’re comfortable on the golf course and not thinking about the bad shots I was hitting before.”
With no wind and rain-softened greens the conditions were ideal for low scoring and Samooja’s back nine of 30 included a hole-in-one on the 15th and birdies on the next two holes.
Only five players in the morning wave shot over par, with former Open champion Henrik Stenson and England’s Oliver Wilson one shot off the lead after rounds of 65.
Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington made a bright start with a four-under-par 67, while Paul Dunne is one-under following a 70.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are in action this afternoon.