Richard Green claimed the first-round lead at the Scottish Open with a superb 64 that the Australian rated good enough to put him among the world’s top 20.
Green arrived at Loch Lomond with a bit of form under his belt after top 10 finishes in his previous two outings. But he revealed that his display in Wednesday’s pro-Am had been so off-key it had sent him heading for the practice ground in despair on the eve of the tournament.
Something clicked and the result was six birdies and an eagle in a round that left him a shot ahead of England’s Graeme Storm, Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, US-based Scot Martin Laird and Irishman Paul McGinley.
Another Australian, Adam Scott, was a shot further back after a bogey-free 66.
“Not a lot went wrong,” Green said. “I hit it excellent tee to green and made some putts.”
The highlight of his round came on the long 13th hole, where a drive and 250-yard 3 wood put him in position to hole a sharply breaking eagle putt from 35 feet.
Green broke into the top 30 in the world in 2007 but has slipped down the rankings since then having, by his own admission, allowed three or four winning positions to slip through his fingers.
He currently stands 90th and said: “I spent three or four years around the top 50 and I am just trying to get myself back to that position. Hopefully the way I am playing now is good enough to be top 20.”
Storm attributed his form to a fitness regime that was triggered by being told he was too fat.
“I went for an assessment and some of the results were not very nice,” he recalled. “I had a scan for body fat. I’m not going to tell you what the result was, but it was not very good! Then obviously you look at the world No. 1 [Tiger Woods] and he is the fittest guy around.”
Storm, who won the French Open two years ago but has yet to deliver on the promise he showed as Britain’s leading amateur a decade ago, had been aware for some time that his lack of fitness was undermining his chances of success.
As well as wilting in the closing stages of tournaments, he had grown frustrated at seeing the likes of Ernie Els hacking their way out of the rough onto greens from positions in which he would have to lay up short.
“I hooked up with [coach] Pete Cowen after I won the French and he basically said that I needed to get stronger,” Storm said.
John Daly, who continues to play most of his golf in Europe after his six-month suspension on the U.S. tour was lifted, threatened to join the leaders until three bogeys on the back nine dropped him to a 69.