Robert Rock chases Open spot
Robert Rock remains in with a chance of making The Open after an excellent first day at the £5.3million ASI Scottish Open.
Rock, from Armitage near Rugeley, carded six birdies in a bogey-free round to finish with a six under par 64. It was enough for him to share second place with Lee Westwood, 2015 winner Rickie Fowler, Scott Fernandez and Jens Dantorp – a shot behind leader Luke List, whose seven-under-par 63 equalled the course record.
Rock is chasing one of the three places available in next week’s Open Championship for players finishing in the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt.
Wolverhampton’s Aaron Rai was tied 71st on one under.
“It’s the last chance and it’s always disappointing to not play the Open,” said the 41-year-old, who finished seventh at St Andrews in 2010.
“I’m going as a coach anyway (he coaches fellow Englishman Matt Wallace) so I’ll be there. But I’d like to be playing.”
Masters champion Patrick Reed was part of an eight-strong group a shot further back following a 65, with Danny Willett continuing his resurgence with a 66 and Olympic champion Justin Rose returning a 67.
Westwood has played just nine events this season after falling out of the world’s top 50 and being ineligible for the Masters, US Open and World Golf Championship events, but the 45-year-old insists he still has the desire to compete at the highest level.
“I’m 45 now so I can’t play as much as I used to, I’m certainly fresh,” said Westwood, who will be one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains when Europe attempt to retain the Ryder Cup in Paris in September.
“But I’m still willing to go out there and practice and work hard on the range and if you’re willing to do that your hunger levels are high.
“I’m gradually able to take the form on the range on to the golf course and I played lovely today. I didn’t put myself in any trouble and gave myself a lot of chances.
“I’m trying not to get excited at all, I’m just trying to control what I can and if it happens, it happens. I’ve never got too far in front of myself and that’s why I have been a prolific winner throughout my career.”
Fowler raised the prospect of recording the first 59 in European Tour history after five birdies and an eagle took him to seven under par after 12 holes of the par-70 layout.
But a bogey on the 13th was followed by five straight pars as the inward nine played much harder back into the wind, Reed also racing to the turn in 29 before coming home in 36.
“I love playing links golf and being able to use your imagination and hit different shots,” said Fowler, whose victory at Gullane in 2015 prompted the members to rename the clubhouse bar in his honour. “I feel like this golf course, you go around and you hit pretty much every club in your bag.”
Rock carded six birdies in a bogey-free round as he looks to secure one of the three places available in next week’s Open Championship for players finishing in the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt.
On a day when almost 100 players broke par, five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 Open at nearby Muirfield, could only manage a level-par 70.