Former Open champion Paul Lawrie carded a five under par 67 in sweltering heat at the Alpine Golf and Sports Club to lie just two shots off the lead held by Australian Wayne Smith after the opening round of the Johnnie Walker Classic.
The 31-year-old from Aberdeen narrowly missed out on a place in last week’s WGC–American Express Championship and instead spent two days with coach Adam Hunter in Scotland - and he looked in good form with five birdies and an eagle on the 17th where he holed from 35ft.
"I played very well on the back nine which was my first nine holes but it was pretty hard work out there," Lawrie said.
"It's nice to get off to a good start and it would be good to get off to a good start in terms of Ryder Cup points as well."
Unheralded Aussies Smith and Paul Gow made the most of the slightly cooler morning temperatures with their rounds of 65 and 66, Smith's eight-birdie effort establishing a new course record.
Another Australian, Rodney Pampling, who had the unwanted distinction of becoming the only first round leader to miss the cut at an Open Championship when Lawrie triumphed at Carnoustie, carded a 68 while Nick Faldo shot a 71 alongside Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance. The defending champion Michael Campbell also shot an opening 71.
The big draw of course was the appearance of Tiger Woods who attracted a massive gallery when he teed off shortly before noon local time. The world number one made a shaky start by his standards and was one over par after three - but birdies at the fourth and seventh got him back to one under par.
Woods found his stride with birdies at the seventh and eighth but then dropped a shot at the ninth after duffing his chip from thick rough just off the green. His approach to the next was at least 20 yards too far and it took a superb first putt to help save par before he just missed a birdie chance from 10ft on the 11th.
Woods did not look completely at ease with his game but managed to coax in another birdie on the par three 12th and then pitched to within inches of the hole on the 523-yard par five 14th for a tap-in birdie. A final birdie on the 17th gave the 1998 champion a first round of 68.1st Round Video Highlights