Friday, 19 March 2010

Phil Mickelson leads a fabulous four at the top of the Barclays Scottish Open leaderboard, with the World Number Three joined by Søren Hansen, Graeme Storm and Lee Westwood on centre stage after opening scores of six under par 65 at the magnificent Loch Lomond Golf Club.

The enthusiastic crowd of 14,783 who flocked to the bonnie banks were given a real treat in the early morning as Mickelson and Storm, playing together alongside defending champion Johan Edfors, produced some wonderful golf to bring the Barclays Scottish Open to life.

Hansen soon joined three time Major Champion Mickelson and Open de France ALSTOM winner Storm, before Westwood brought the first round to a fitting close with an outstanding putting display that saw him join the leaders.

The fabulous four really did set Loch Lomond alight, sharing an eagle, 23 birdies and just a solitary bogey amongst them.

Despite some discomfort from an injured wrist, Mickelson – and indeed Storm – were a joy to watch. Both men play the game with a smile on their faces and by the end of their birdie strewn first rounds had formed a mutual appreciation society.

“We had a great, great day to score low and we had a lot of rounds under par this morning,” said Mickelson.

“I certainly knew of Graeme Storm and followed him in the Walker Cup and knew that he had just won recently shooting 66 the last round.  I was very impressed with both Johan Edfors and Graeme and they couldn't have been nicer.

“I knew about Johan because he had won three times last year.  We get all of The European Tour on the Golf Channel back in the States.  I've watched him play.  I watched him win this tournament last year, and I knew what a talented player he is.  I was very impressed with Graeme; he played a wonderful round of golf at six under and played spectacularly and putted well. But before he played I knew he was a great player.”

Storm revealed that he had suffered a restless night due to the prospect of going head to head with Mickelson, but after a fine first tee shot he was soon shooting the breeze with the World Number Three, talking the two languages of football – American and European – as he matched his playing partner shot for shot.

It has been a long journey to the top for Storm since turning professional in 2001 after showing unlimited potential as an amateur.

“It was awesome playing with Phil. I was quite nervous the start of the day.  He’s a big player to be playing with, but I calmed down straightaway and we ended up talking away, chatting about everything – especially football.

“I've been playing well a couple of years now and I just don't think I was believing in myself enough to say that I could win.  I mean, I was leading the Spanish Open last year and I said something like that, you know, if I don't win, I'd still be happy to finish top five or top ten.  But you know, I'm getting on the leaderboards now, and I'm just starting to believe that I can win tournaments. 

“Winning in France was a massive boost for me on such a good and tough golf course.  It just proves that I can play at the highest level and I feel I deserve to be playing with the bigger names of the game.”

Hansen is another player coming into top form at the right time of the season after a poor start to the year by his own admission.

The Dane finished second to Storm in France a fortnight ago and was seventh in Ireland last week.

“A month ago I was 124th on the Order of Merit, and I've had a half a year where I really didn't know what I was doing,” said Hansen. “And then all of a sudden a few things clicked and I changed caddie and I'm on a run.  I'm just happy playing good golf.”

Westwood, meanwhile, is hoping that his new technological approach to putting after a consultation with Paul Hurrian, who also helps Westwood’s Ryder Cup team mates Padraig Harrington and David Howell, can see him build on his 2007 Valle Romano Open de Andalucia victory and confirm his return to the world’s elite where a player of his boundless ability belongs.

“It's imperative that you make putts and I just haven't been making putts, only in Andalucía when I won,” said Westwood.

“You've got to break it all down, haven't you? It's a very fine line between winning and losing with this game, and so you've got to cover all the bases. 

“I was shocked how bad it was.  I could see immediately why I wasn't making anything.  A lot of the tips he was giving me were tips like how I putted in 2000, '98 and '99; my hands high, keep the ball on my left side.  He gave me a few other small tips for pace and putts and a few drills I've been working on and it's really helped.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1HAVRET, GrégoryFRA18-14
3ELS, ErnieRSA18-13
T4STERNE, RichardRSA18-11
T4EDBERG, PelleSWE18-11
T4DONALD, LukeENG18-11
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