History repeated itself as England’s Oliver Wilson took the first round lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for the second straight year.
Wilson, who lost his European Tour card in 2011 and was playing in the Championship as an invitee, shot nine birdies with just one bogey in a sparkling 64 at Carnoustie to finish one shot ahead of France’s Raphael Jacquelin.
But both will be looking over their shoulders at the ominous figure of Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, just one shot further back. Despite an exhausting role as Vice-Captain of the successful European Ryder Cup team last week, Harrington shot a 66 at Carnoustie to put himself in a strong position and set up the real possibility of an unprecedented third Alfred Dunhill Links title.
But for dropped shots at the 17th and the 18th, Harrington, who won the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, would have shared the lead on eight-under-par with Wilson.
Wilson, who finished second in 2009, said: “With Carnoustie, you would take par really, but to shoot how I did, hitting some really good shots when it mattered, was really pleasing. It’s nice to be on the leaderboard. I was really pleased with how I played and I’m really happy. I’ve been working hard and my game is improving all the time. The Alfred Dunhill Links is always one of the best tournaments of the year. I’m obviously grateful to be here.”
Many people’s pre-Championship favourite world No.1 Rory McIlroy finished with a one-over-par 73 at Carnoustie. He said: “It was good fun to get to play with my Dad. It was a nice round of golf. I wish I had played a little bit better and made a few more birdies, but hopefully that will happen. With everything that went on last week, a 73 isn’t disastrous, and I’ve got three more days.”
With a prize fund of US$5 million, the championship incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament for the world’s leading golfers and a team event in which the professionals are paired with some of the most celebrated amateur golfers which creates a unique atmosphere.