Rory McIlroy lived up to his star billing on the opening day’s play at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.
In blustery conditions, the former world golf number one shot a course record seven-under-par 64 at the illustrious Balgownie golf links.
The highlight for the 25-year-old, who had eight birdies and a solitary dropped shot at the fourth, was a monstrous drive on the 436yd 13th where he drove the green.
Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jimmy Walker were playing in the group ahead and had been lining up their putts when McIlroy’s ball trickled on to the green.
McIlroy said: “They were still on the green, so I told Poulter it was a three wood, although it was obviously a driver.
“It plays 436 yards to the middle of the green and I was maybe a few yards short of the middle.
“It was over 400 yards which was nice, albeit wind-assisted, downhill and in firm conditions.
“I was confident with it as I had knocked it on the green on the pro-am. I was pretty sure of what line to take and just stepped up and hit a good one.
“It was nice to go over the hill and see it on the green. I did my best to try to make a par but managed to make a birdie.”
McIlroy’s majestic start at the Scottish Open is a great confidence boost ahead of next week’s Open championship at Hoylake when the twice major winner will attempt to get his hands on the Claret Jug for the first time.
He said: “Any time you start a tournament like that you are very pleased and it gives me something to build on for the next three days.
“More importantly, I was really happy with how I controlled my game. To be able to trust some of the shots I have been practising over the last 10 days in a tournament was great.
“I know I can play like that over the next few days and, going into next week, that is what I need to do. That is the golf I need to play to have success on a course like this.”
Phil Mickelson began his title defence with a three-under 68, which included an eagle 3 at the sixth. The American also saved some of his best golf for the 13th hole which he birdied despite driving on to a cart path.
Tom Lewis, who was part of the victorious Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team that defeated the United States at Royal Aberdeen in 2011, had another moment to remember on the Balgownie links with a hole in one.
The 23-year-old aced the 185yd 17th with an eight iron.
Frenchman Francois Calmels also bagged an ace, at the 148yd eighth using a pitching wedge.