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Friday, 19 March 2010

Three of the world's top six players are contesting The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond golf club this week, but on Thursday it was an ex-paratrooper ranked at 153 and a Swede 11 spots lower that stole the headlines.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, twice a European Tour champion at the Malaysian Open in 2004 and 2005, was heading in the wrong direction when he bogeyed the second hole, but eight birdies later he held a seven under par clubhouse score of 64 and shared the lead with Alexander Noren.

Jaidee's recovery started with birdies on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth holes, while a three on the par four ninth saw him out in 32. He then picked up shots at the 13th, 17th and 18th before admitting his feat had been achieved with a prolapsed disc in his back.

His plan is to fly home for treatment next week - unless he qualifies for The Open Championship  by finishing in the top five at Loch Lomond Golf Club this weekend.

"I have my back injury because it's such a long flight, ten or 11 hours, from Asia to Europe," explained the 39 year old. "I saw a doctor and he told me I cannot do anything for three months.

"The doctor wants to see me again and then he can see what's wrong and then he can do something. I have to go for an x-ray but if I qualify I could play next week."

Ironically, it was another injury - a broken ankle when he was 16 - that stopped him playing soccer and convinced him to turn his attentions fully to golf. He turned professional at 29 years old and now has high hopes going into the second round.

Noren, who is 26 on Saturday, started on the back nine and produced a solitary birdie with no bogeys going into the turn. However, six birdies in the next nine holes sent the Swede charging up the leaderboard and into a share of the lead. 

Noren said: "There were no bogeys, which was great. That's what I've been struggling with. I've had too many high scores, doubles and triples, but now I've started hitting it better off the tee, and you know, getting more chances for birdies."

He admitted he was devastated when he missed the cut last year. He added: "Last time I remember crying after missing the cut not because I played bad, but just it's such a great course. It's my favourite all year, just fantastic; and then playing against all of these great players, it makes it special."

Just one shot separates that pair from Argentine Angel Cabrera, who started on the back nine after rain delays earlier in the morning and made his mark by collecting a birdie three on the 415 yard 12th hole, before picking up shots on the 15th and 17th.

Further birdies followed on the third and sixth - both holes are par five - while a birdie three on the seventh brought the 2007 US Open Champion to six under par.

Sweden's Niclas Fasth hit a bogey-free round of 66 to take fourth place alongside England's John Bickerton and Garry Houston of Wales.

Fasth, who has recently undergone changes to his swing, was pleased to shoot a bogey-free round. He said: "You can never guarantee a bogey free round even if you play well. I was only in trouble a couple of times really today and made nice up and downs, so was quite pleased with that.

"That will all help you to get a good score, because you play all right, you're going to make a few birdies, and if you can get away from the few situations where you have a problem, then it's good."

World Number Two Phil Mickelson, who lost in a play-off to Grégory Havret 12 months ago, carded three birdies and three bogeys and said: "I just couldn't get the ball to drop but I fought hard to get it round near par.

"After a three-week lay-off I sometimes have trouble with my putting in the first round back but I'm looking forward to tomorrow and a round in the low 60s can get me back into the tournament."

Ernie Els finished one over par before saying: "I hit a bad shot on the fourth and made double there and then bogeyed the fifth as well. Then I played really well all the way round and I lipped out for a birdie on the 15th to get me to two under and I pulled my tee shot left on the 16th and didn't get up and down so I made five there. I hit a bad shot on the 18th. I probably could have finished two under but it was tough."

Elsewhere, Sweden's Pelle Edberg sunk a hole-in-one on the par three 17th to win the Barcalys Scottish Open Hole in One Prize, a new BMW X6, worth a cool £44,595.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MCDOWELL, GraemeNIR18-13
2KINGSTON, JamesRSA18-11
T3JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-10
T3GREEN, RichardAUS18-10
5KHAN, SimonENG18-9
T6DINWIDDIE, RobertENG18-8
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