HAVING returned to work with Adam Hunter, the coach who helped him win the Open at Carnoustie in 1999, Paul Lawrie made an impressive start at the Barclays Scottish Open yesterday by signing for 68.
The best placed Scot after the first round along with Dunbar's David Drysdale and Edinburgh amateur John Gallagher on three under par, the Aberdonian was particularly heartened by the quality of his short game and the number of up and downs he made to save par.
Although irked by a three putt bogey on the first, Lawrie was immaculate on an inward half of 32 when he reeled off three birdies and gave nothing away. "It was a good day and should have been a few less," he said.
The last man into the tournament when he received an invitation on Monday, Drysdale repaid the consideration of the organisers by turning in a solid performance. Although there was no time for a practice round after a failed attempt to qualify for the Open, the Scot made the most of the opportunity which came his way. "I'd hate to have been sitting at home watching on TV," he said.
Two years ago, Drysdale set the pace on the first day, sharing the first round lead with eventual winner Johan Edfors. Yesterday's effort wasn't quite in that league, but the East Lothian man was glad to be back.
Swanston's Gallagher, last year's Scottish Amateur champion, returned the low score from the unpaid ranks. The only cack-handed player in the field, he chose the right moment to produce his best round of 2008.
"This is my second European Tour event and was a really good experience," he said. "It was nice to have a good round – the first time I've broken 70 in competition this season."
Marc Warren, meantime, was unaffected by the public spat with former coach Bob Torrance and also finished under par on 70.
As a former winner of the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA, and a man who led the Open at Birkdale after 36 holes in 1991, it's little wonder Andrew Oldcorn contends the biggest events bring out the best in him as a golfer. Although he spilled a shot at the par 3 17th, where the new back tee at 215 yards prompted the use of a utility club which carried the back of the green, the Edinburgh golfer was reasonably content to post 71, level par, after taking encouragement from finishing 33rd at the European Open last week.
"It's often been the case that the bigger the event, the better I play," said Oldcorn. "I still think I've got the game to compete at a certain level. When I do get to play, obviously I want to do as well as I can. I'm better when I play at a higher level."
Alastair Forsyth, on 73, could hardly find a good word to say about a performance in which the only redeeming feature was tenacity. "I drove poorly, hit my irons poorly and putted dreadfully," he said.