Scottish Open: Mikko Ilonen leads from Harrington, Poulter and Fowler
|Scottish Open first round|
|-7 M Ilonen (Fin); -5 P Harrington (Ire), Fowler (US), I Poulter (Eng), C Shinkwin (Eng), Paul Peterson (US), A Dodt (Aus); -4 S Gallacher (Sco), R Ramsay (Sco), M Kuchar (US)|
|Selected others:-3 A Scott (Aus); -2 A Noren (Swe); E H Stenson (Swe); +2 R McIlroy (NI), R Knox (Sco)|
Mikko Ilonen is the first-round leader at the Scottish Open after shooting a seven-under-par round of 65.
The Finn, 37, has missed the cut in his last four tournaments but birdied five of the first six holes at Dundonald Links and added two more.
Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter are among a group of players two strokes behind.
Rory McIlroy bogeyed his final hole to finish on two over par and did not speak to the media afterwards.
The world number four from Northern Ireland now faces an uphill battle to avoid a third missed cut in four events.
Starting from the 10th, McIlroy bogeyed the 11th and 12th and then found the burn that guards the front of the 13th green to drop two more shots.
The four-time major winner reached the turn in 40 but recovered with three birdies before his slip at the ninth left him nine behind Ilonen, the surprised leader.
“I thought anything in the 60s would be a great round,” said Ilonen. “Given my recent form, I think red numbers (under par) really, but seven under is a good start.”
Poulter, 41, is joined by fellow Englishman Callum Shinkwin and Australia’s Andrew Dodt on five under.
Fowler, winner of this event at Gullane in 2015, is on the same mark, along with US compatriot Paul Peterson and two-time Open winner Harrington.
The Irishman, 45, completed his round of 67 as rain arrived late in the day, and performed a “minor miracle” to save par at the 16th before chipping in for a birdie at the next.
“We were very lucky to find the ball on the 16th and my provisional was in a bunker,” he said. “I was staring at a seven but managed to take a penalty drop, get it up near the green and hole the par putt from around 90 feet.”
Poulter came through final qualifying for the Open last week and finished second the last time it was staged at Royal Birkdale in 2008.
“I’m pretty happy,” he said. “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.
“I got myself in a couple of spots of bother, but pretty much swung it well, put it in position and made a few putts and it adds up to a nice score.”
Scottish pair Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay are both on four under par, tied in eighth place with US Ryder Cup player Matt Kuchar.
“Coming from the rough, it’s tough to get close to the pins,” said Gallacher, who is aiming for one of three spots available for next week’s Open.
“I hung in for the first 11 then started to play well and had a few chances at the end.”
Open champion Henrik Stenson, playing in a group with Fowler and McIlroy, started his day with a triple bogey after finding the heavy rough but five birdies helped the Swede end the day at level par.
Last year’s winner Alex Noren shot six birdies, but the Swede, ranked ninth in the world, was hampered by four bogeys, while Australia’s Adam Scott is a stroke better off on three under par.