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Hillier, Fox shoot solid starts to Scottish Open

Daniel Hillier
Daniel Hillier Photo: Photosport

In-form New Zealand golfer Daniel Hillier sat just inside the top 30 after the opening round of the Scottish Open, the leadup tournament to next week's British Open.

Hillier carded four birdies and two bogeys in a two-under 68 to share 26th place after the opening day at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, leaving him seven strokes behind Korean leader Byeong Hun An.

Compatriot Ryan Fox was a shot behind Hiller, having carded an additional bogey.

Both golfers are warming up for the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, and Hillier in particular will be hoping to maintain momentum.

The 24-year-old from Wellington completed a career-best result two weeks ago when surging home to win the British Masters by two shots.

His form on Friday couldn't match that of An, who carded nine birdies to tie the course record with a 61 and grab the lead by two shots from American Riley Davis.

An, a three-time runner-up who has zero PGA Tour wins in 175 career starts, began play on the 10th and, with five birdies, hit the turn with a 30. His final putt for birdie on the par-3 ninth, a 24-footer, left him a career-low 61, three better than a group that included Northern Irish former world No.1 Rory McIlroy.

"I couldn't play any better," An said. "I drove it well and hit it well and chipped it well and putted well. That's a clean scorecard."

McIlroy held the lead for part of the first round, surging to the top of the leaderboard on his 12th hole of the day -- No. 3 -- with an eagle on the 630-yard par-5.

McIlroy, who had started five-under through seven holes, wasn't lamenting a missed chance to throw up a lower number. He walked off the course pleased with his putting, confessing he struggled with reads in practice rounds due to the slower pace of the links greens.

"I got off to a great start, a really fast start," McIlroy said.

"(Putting was) probably the one thing I was not worried about going into today. But more so like I was questioning ... didn't feel like I had maybe had enough time to adjust to links greens, and I didn't putt very well in the Pro-Am (Wednesday)."

- RNZ/Reuters