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Donald eclipsed by Molinari magic at Castle Stuart

ESPN staff
July 12, 2012 « Terry case adjourned until Friday afternoon | Chartbeat test »
Luke Donald is the defending champion at Castle Stuart © PA Photos
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Luke Donald remains on course for the defence of his Scottish Open title after he completed his opening round in five-under par at Castle Stuart, but his efforts were surpassed by Francesco Molinari, who recorded a course record 62 on Thursday.

Donald made seven birdies, including four in a row after the turn, but two bogeys curbed his progress as he signed for a 67. He trails runaway leader Molinari by five strokes after the Italian continued his glorious form with a bogey-free round of 62.

Molinari, who has moved back into an automatic qualifying spot for the Ryder Cup, saw his round pick up pace when he holed five consecutive birdies between 14 and 18 to reach the turn in six-under. Taking full advantage of the mild conditions and gentle breeze, he picked up another four birdies after the turn - and he nearly moved to 11-under as he narrowly missed a monster birdie putt at the 11th.

Donald, meanwhile, had a more circumspect round - later being joined at five-under by the second highest ranked player in the field, Martin Kaymer.

Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen is Molinari's closest rival, as he recorded seven birdies to sit three shots off the pace, while his compatriot Anders Hansen faded after a blistering start. Hansen was well placed after five birdies on his first nine holes, but failed to build on his early form as a single bogey saw him settle for 68.

Raphael Jacquelin later joined Kjeldsen at seven-under, however - with Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Fredrik Jacobson and Alex Noren among a group at six-under.

Hansen is joined on four-under by English duo Ross Fisher and Simon Dyson, while Padraig Harrington is a shot further back after a round of 69 featuring five birdies and two bogeys.

Ernie Els endured a mixed day on the course as two double bogeys put paid to his hopes of a bright start - signing for a two-under 70 despite seven birdies, level with Scottish duo Craig Lee and David Drysdale.

Phil Mickelson had a difficult day, the late entry looking for some form ahead of next week's Open Championship but could only manage a one-over par round of 73 to leave himself a bit of work to do to ensure his involvement over the weekend.

Elsewhere, Paul Casey's struggle for form continued as he struggled round in four over. Casey, who has made just one cut since dislocating his shoulder at Christmas, showed glimmers of a return to form with three birdies, but all his endeavours were swiftly cancelled out by a triple bogey eight at the par-five 12th.

The shot of the day belonged to Andrew Johnston, who claimed a hole-in-one at the 167-yard 11th en route to a three-under opening round.

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