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Golf | European Tour

Fowler shines in Scotland, McIlroy struggles



Former champion Rickie Fowler fired a five-under-par opening round of 67 to take a share of the Scottish Open clubhouse lead at Dundonald Links on Thursday, as Rory McIlroy's recent poor form continued.

Fowler is tied at the top with Australian Andrew Dodt and the English duo of Ian Poulter and Callum Shinkwin.

McIlroy, who is preparing for next week's British Open, was four over par after just four holes en route to a two-over 74.

It is the third straight round where McIlroy has failed to break par and the four-time major champion is in danger of missing consecutive cuts after his feeble Irish Open title defence last week.

The world number 10 Fowler won when he last contested the Scottish Open in 2015, and he capped his return with three birdies in succession from his 12th hole in overcast and windy conditions.

The American will be hoping to claim his maiden major title next week at Royal Birkdale, having threatened at both the Masters and the US Open earlier this year.

"I felt like I did a good job of hitting fairways today, staying on the right side of the hole and made a couple of birdies, and it's always nice to have a clean card," said Fowler.

"It's a lot of fun to be back here at the Scottish Open as it was unfortunate I had to miss it last year with the schedule and the Olympics being part of the summer, and just didn't allow for me to be over here the week before the Open.

"So, excited to be back and having won in 2015 at Gullane, I think it's a great way for me to come over and get ready for the Open, but also to play somewhere where I know I can play well.

"I'm looking forward to here this week and getting myself in contention and being in a good spot and ready to go next week in The Open at Birkdale."

Poulter highlighted his round with an eagle after landing his second shot on the par-five 14th hole of the course to just two feet.

The 41-year-old's effort comes just nine days after booking a spot for the British Open by finishing second in a qualifier at Woburn, and he will return to Royal Birkdale next week, where he finished second in 2008.

"I am pretty happy as the last couple of days I don't feel like I've hit it all that well, so I spent a bit of time yesterday on the range with Pete (Cowen - his coach)," he said.

"There was a couple of blemishes there, 15, 16, two tough holes, which can happen. But apart from that, I was in play a lot.

"I just gave myself chances, took a couple of them, rolled a couple of nice 25-footers in and there was no real drama."

Dodt, 31, is yet to contest a major championship and set about securing one of three British Open places on offer this week with seven birdies.

"The first four or five holes were really solid while I grazed the edge a couple of times, and then just got on a bit of a run there through the middle to sort of set up the round," he said.

"It was pretty solid from there on in."

The 24-year-old Shinkwin, who began his sporting life as a junior boxer, eagled the last hole as he also seeks to qualify.



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