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Friday, 19 March 2010

Sweden's Johan Edfors, twice a winner already this season, sprinkled nine birdies in a six under par 65 to share the lead with Scotland's David Drysdale in the first round of The Barclays Scottish Open at sun-dappled Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Edfors and Drysdale took advantage of calm and sunny conditions at the picturesque venue to move one stroke ahead of Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Miles Tunnicliff of England.

Drysdale, who confessed to a bout of nerves playing on home soil, channelled his adrenaline in a positive manner by matching the Swede's six-birdie haul, including a pair to close out his round on the ninth.
Edfors, 30, who won the TCL Classic and The Quinn Direct British Masters earlier this year, made a blistering start with four birdies in the first five holes but the well-oiled machine spluttered slightly with two bogeys on the back nine.

Drysdale, backed by his home crowd, was consistency personified.  Starting his round at the tenth, the 31 year old from Edinburgh picked up six birdies in an error-free round.

Last year, the European Challenge Tour player started strongly with an opening 67 but had to settle for a share of 25th place by Sunday afternoon. This time he wants to keep the momentum going.

The Scot deserves to be cut some slack. Last season he finished 117th on The European Tour Order of Merit and missed out on retaining his card by one place. A visit to the Qualifying School Final Stage proved equally frustrating as he finished one shot outside of regaining his playing privileges. Things appeared to be looking up, though, in the inspirational surroundings.

"It's fantastic. I am over the moon with that round" said the soft-spoken Scot. "I am more nervous that usual playing here in Scotland. I was shaking on the first tee and had a sick feeling in my stomach. I ate some poached eggs before going out but it was a struggle to get them down!"

Drysdale added: "My wife, dad and a few friends were out there watching and I must say that everything feels different here in front of my home crowd. it's difficult to explain. Getting an invite into the tournament was a huge bonus and after making a good start last year I need to make sure I can keep it going this time."

Edfors has been a much improved golfer in 2006, trumping his maiden victory in the TCL Classic with a success in the more high profile Quinn Direct British Masters against a field of the highest quality over a golf course - The De Vere Belfry - which sorts out the men from the boys.

Clearly, a break from golf has proved the catalyst in renewing Edfors's zest for the game. He said: "I took six weeks off, but there are some big events coming up and I've been trying to get ready for them. I only played here once before and missed the cut but I think it suits my game. I am usually pretty good with my driver so it sets up well for me."

While Edfors was making his way relentlessly to the top of the leaderboard, his 61 year old playing partner, Hale Irwin, showed that he can still cut the mustard with the generation of "flat bellies", as Lee Trevino described the generation following him.

Irwin, who was about 40 yards behind Edfors off the tee, closed with five straight birdies, much to the amazement of the Swede, who declared: "I heard after the round what age he is, which is amazing, because at three under par he can still win the tournament."

Clarke and Tunnicliff both steered their way round in 66, five under par, with two-time Masters Champion José Maria Olazábal heading a group of four players on 67, four under par, thanks to a magical display with his putter on a day when his ball striking wasn't up to its usual high standards.

Clarke, who had an opportunity to win last week's Smurfit Kappa European Open before slipping back in the final round, insisted: "I am close to playing okay but mentally I am not quite there. I am making a few silly mistakes, especially come Sunday. My Sunday score average this year is very, very high, which is totally out of character for me."

Last week's event at the K Club in Ireland typified Clarke's season. He went into the final round two shots off the pace but a closing four over par 76 ruined his chances and victory went instead to steady Welshman Stephen Dodd.

"Doddy played really nicely but I didn't perform at all again," said Clarke. "Unfortunately there have been quite a few Sundays this year when I have done that."

Clarke revealed that he has now opened his Website to auction the RBS Shot of the Month Award he won for a sportsmanlike shot he played during the Irish Open in May. Anyone clicking on www.darrenclarke.com can place their bid for the engraved silver trumpet vase. All proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research.

American Fred Couples pulled out with back trouble before the start of the round. Couples, who had declared his back to be "fine" just 24 hours earlier, missed the Pro-Am after his back locked up on Wednesday. By Thursday, the problem had not disappeared and Couples was reluctantly forced to abandon hopes of his debut in the tournament.

Scot Sam Torrance, 52, making a record-breaking 700th tour appearance, carded a 74 while South Africans Retief Goosen and Ernie Els - both past winners at Loch Lomond, returned matching 70s.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1EDFORS, JohanSWE18-13
T2SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-11
T2DONALD, LukeENG18-11
T2ROMERO, AndresARG18-11
T5CLARK, TimRSA18-10
T5BJÖRN, ThomasDEN18-10
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