Swede Söderberg birdied eight of his first ten holes over the Old Course at St Andrews, setting the pace and signing for a 64, a score that would later be matched by American Uihlein over the same layout. Spaniard Arnaus was four shots off the lead with five holes to play at Carnoustie Golf Links but eagled the 14th before finishing with birdie-birdie to join Söderberg and Uihlein at eight under, thanks to his own 64. This three-way tie was established. Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who had recently shown his skills as a vice captain in the European Ryder Cup victory, was part of a six-way tie for second place at seven under. The other players in this group were local favorite Grant Forrest, Dane Marcus Helligkilde, American Billy Horschel, and South African duo Zander Lombard and Wilco Nienaber.
On a cold and wet day on Scotland’s east coast, Söderberg turned in a score of 29 for the front nine holes of the St Andrews course, putting him in a position to challenge Ross Fisher’s course record. However, his hopes ended with six consecutive pars. He then bogeyed the 17th hole but closed with a birdie to finish the day on top. “The first ten holes were quite easy,” he said. “But then you turn around and face the wind, and the rain increased a little. I thought I played pretty well in the last eight holes too. I just didn’t get close enough to make the putts, but it felt good to finish with a birdie. I’ve had a few really good rounds lately, but there have always been one or two bad rounds each week. So the weekends haven’t been what I wanted in the last two months or so. I feel like there’s a lot of good golf in me, so I just need to clean up the bad golf a little more and try to get around a little better.”
Arnaus has finished in the top 25 at this event for the past two seasons, and his bogey-free round was a stunning start at Carnoustie, considered the most difficult among the three courses being played. “At times, it felt easy, but this course can definitely be challenging,” he said. “We continued to play quite well, and then we made a few good putts. It was a brilliant start, I would say. It started calm but then the wind and rain came, which is to be expected here. You just have to embrace the challenge.”
Uihlein, the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2013, had previously come close to winning this event, losing in a playoff. He also achieved a top ten finish last season. “I’ve had good success here,” he said after his bogey-free effort. “I just love it; the golf is pure over here, and I enjoy it when it gets windy and challenging. It’s just a lot of fun, really. You get to be creative, and it’s something that I enjoy doing. I was close here in 2013 when David Howell beat me in a playoff. Looking back on it, it would have been a really special win. I’ve always enjoyed coming back here, and hopefully, I can put together three more good days and see what happens.”
Söderberg’s remarkable start was due to his precise iron play, as he hit approaches inside 15 feet on seven of his first ten holes. A three-putt at the Road Hole resulted in his only bogey of the day, but he then holed an 18-footer for birdie on the last hole.
Arnaus began his round with three birdies, but he had to wait until the par-five 12th hole for another one. He then eagled the 14th hole with a 12-foot putt and added another birdie on the 17th. His approach on the final hole put him within 12 feet of the pin.
Uihlein also displayed excellent approach play, making birdies on the first, third, fourth, fifth, ninth, tenth, and 12th holes. He then made a nearly 50-foot putt on the 14th hole.
Horschel had a great front nine at Carnoustie, carding a score of 29, while Colsaerts, Helligkilde, Lombard, and Nienaber played at St Andrews, and Forrest played at Kingsbarns.
Finally, there was a group of 13 players at six under par, including defending champion Ryan Fox.
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