World No. 2 Lee Westwood started the Barclays Scottish Open with a 7-under-par 65 at the new Castle Stuart links on Thursday, and shares the lead with Mark Tullo of Chile, a graduate from the Challenge Tour last season who can boast a victory over Rory McIlroy at the Egyptian Open.
Certain to go back to No. 1 if he wins, Westwood had an eagle, six birdies and just one late dropped shot.
2011 BARCLAYS SCOTTISH OPEN
The Scottish Open is being played on the links-style layout at Castle Stuart near Inverness for the first time this week.
Luke Donald, currently top of the rankings, bogeyed his fourth hole and had to wait three more for his first birdie. But he then came home in a 5-under 31 to be tied for third on 5-under 67.
In with a 66 was another member of last year's Ryder Cup team, Sweden’s Peter Hanson, after he birdied three of the last five.
His playing partner Colin Montgomerie, who needs a top-5 finish for a chance to play in next week's British Open, was also 6 under with one to play, but a bad drive led to a closing bogey and so he was two behind Westwood as well.
That put him in the clubhouse alongside not only Donald, but also two more English players, Chris Wood and 51-year-old Barry Lane, defending champion Edoardo Molinari, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and South African Retief Goosen.
Matt Kuchar carded a 70 to finish the first round as the highest-placed American, while Ryan Palmer had a 71. Phil Mickelson and Gary Woodland both struggled to 73s, while Brandt Snedeker had a 77.
"I played well and it's a nice way to start the next two weeks,” said Westwood, who had a word with the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson during his round.
"I've no superstition about winning the week before a major. The more pressure I can get myself under the better -- I like having the pressure."
The biggest problem he had was getting lost a couple of times.
"I couldn't find a couple of tees, so I had to ask direction," he added.
That was strange considering he had played the eve-of-tournament pro-am, but he explained that most of that was played with an umbrella in front of his face to shield himself from the rain.
There was one heavy downpour during his round, but during it he found the green in two at the long sixth -- his 15th -- and two-putted for birdie. The eagle had come after a superb second to four feet at the 607-yard 18th.
Having upset newly crowned U.S. Open champion McIlroy and Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero to win on the Challenge Tour last year, the unheralded Tullo is in prime position to add another surprise victory to his resume.
The 33-year-old Tullo made 10 birdies -- including four straight at the start of his roun. And after leaving a clutch of the world’s best players in his wake, Tullo says his game is ideally suited to links golf and he’s confident of lasting the pace for the remaining three days.
“I guess the only links golf I’ve played is over here in Europe,” said Tullo, who is six months into his first season on the European Tour. “I’ve no experience compared to these guys out here but I hit the ball low, I have a good imagination, and a pretty good short game.
“At the beginning of the week, I said you can have a million birdies or a million bogeys. Thank goodness it was a million birdies.”
The Santiago-born Tullo, who went to college in North Carolina, graduated from the second-tier Challenge Tour last year after capturing two notable victories. He denied Manassero to win his first professional title at the Rolex Trophy and then came from behind on the final day of the Egyptian Open to overturn a four-shot deficit and win by one shot over a field that included McIlroy.
His highest finish in 14 tournaments this season was 11th at last month’s BMW Italian Open, and he has had three other top-30 finishes.
Lauding it over the likes of top-ranked Luke Donald and sixth-ranked Phil Mickelson puts Tullo in an unusual position.
“Players like Westwood, Donald -- they are the big names and everybody is looking at them,” Tullo said. “Obviously nobody knows the underdog because I haven’t done anything and they have done everything.
“I don’t have pressure on me,” he added. “They are the ones that everybody wants to see and sometimes we get inspired and have a good round. Hopefully it will continue for three more days.”
Tullo has an interesting family lineage. He has an English father and a Dutch mother, who met in Ireland and moved to Chile after marrying.
“You could say we have been around,” Tullo quipped.