Fowler, Harrington and Poulter shine as McIlroy fades

Scottish Open: Fowler, Harrington and Poulter shine as McIlroy fades

Rickie Fowler has made a solid start in his bid for a second Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title in three years, as Rory McIlroy’s struggles kept going at Dundonald Links.

Fowler fired a confident 67 to join Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington on five-under par. That is two adrift of first-round leader Mikko Ilonen, while McIlroy stumbled to a 74 and needed a sub-70 score on Friday to avoid missing the cut for the third time in four starts. Fowler outshone playing-partners McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, as the American was one of only four players in the 156-man field to keep a bogey off his card.

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Fowler was victorious at Gullane in 2015 but did not defend his title last year due to scheduling complications. He got up and running this time with a birdie at the 13th – his fourth – and added another at the next before breaking a run of six pars with three consecutive birdies from the third. World’s number 10 parred in to keep himself matched at the top with Shinkwin, Australian Andrew Dodt and Poulter, who followed a birdie at 13 with an eagle at the long 14th before back-to-back bogeys stopped his momentum. The English veteran bounced back with four birdies, though, in a perfect front-nine 32 which raised him back into a share of second, with Harrington later joining the group along with Paul Peterson.

Harrington birdied three of the first five holes and got to five under at the 11th before dropping shots at 12 and 15 either side of another birdie at the 13th. The Irishman rolled in his seventh birdie putt of the round at 17, defying the cold and rain later in the day, although he could not take advantage of the par-five last as he continued two shots behind Ilonen. The Finn birdied 14 and 15 in a solid back-nine 34. Later, he rushed into the absolute lead with a run of five birdies in six holes from the first, in the worst of the conditions, and completed his best round of the season with three good pars.

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Decided to atone for his early exit at his own tournament last week, McIlroy bogeyed 11 and 12 and then lost his second place at the 13th, which led to a double-bogey six and left him four over after four holes. The bad streak ended with a birdie at the next only to give the shot back with a scrappy six at the 18th, but he assembled on the front nine and made good fours at the third and fifth before rolling in a 25-foot putt for another gain at seven, although a wayward tee-shot at the ninth led to his fourth bogey of the day.

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