Chris Selfridge fired his lowest round of the year to trail leader Tapio Pulkkanen by a shot after the opening round of the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts.
The Moyola Park talent, 24, blasted seven birdies in a six under 65 to share second place while West Waterford’s Gary Hurley tied eighth after a seven-birdie 66.
Finn Pulkkanen carded a seven under 64, who was forced to take a week off last week to recover from chickenpox, admitted that he had a look at the leaderboard on the 18th hole only to realise his birdie putt was for the outright lead, and he duly converted it to edge clear at the summit.
“I really wanted to make the birdie on the last as I saw there were six players on six under,” he said. “So I wanted to make sure I went seven under. I was actually first reserve for a very long time for this event.
“I only found out I was playing on Tuesday, and travelled on Wednesday. I was really sick last week and I couldn't practice any golf, so it feels a little bit surprising. I've never been the leader after a first round so it's a nice feeling.”
Selfridge shares second with five players including Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg, who played a practice round with his fellow Coastal Carolina University alumnus Dustin Johnson during last week’s US Open at Oakmont.
Although Soderberg did not make it to the weekend in Pittsburgh, it was an unforgettable experience which has given his confidence a huge boost and he believes it contributed to his superb opening round in Aviemore.
“I played with Dustin on the Monday – I’ve played with him before from college – but obviously he’s a really good player. When he gets it going in tournaments he just murders the ball and that was the key at Oakmont.
“I was really excited, really pumped for him. He should have won a Major a long time ago so it was only a matter of time and it was fun for me, for him to win the week that I played with him.
“I think there was one drive where I was only maybe ten yards behind him – you should definitely never compare drives with him because he’s probably the best driver in the world. Other than that his game is really solid so it definitely gives you an insight into what parts of your game you need to get better at.”
Kevin Phelan shares 28th after a three under 68 with Brian Casey (70) tied 56th, Cormac Sharvin (73) tied 113th and Ruaidhri McGee (76) tied 143rd.
The Island’s Gavin Moynihan withdrew after nine holes having jarred his wrist on a hidden rock under his ball and racked up a triple bogey.
- 64 T Pulkkanen (Fin),
- 65 R Coles (Eng), R Fox (Nzl), C Selfridge (Nir), T Murray (Eng), S Soderberg (Swe), S Forsstrom (Swe)
- 66 G Hurley (Irl)
- 70 B Casey (Irl)
- 73 C Sharvin (Nir)
- 76 R McGee (Irl)
- RET G Moynihan (Irl)