Tyrrell Hatton made a promising start to his title defence at the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday and carded an opening-round 68 to put him one shot off joint leaders Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Dunne.
Rory McIlroy's first day in the competition was less impressive, however, as he shot one-over par at St. Andrews—one of three courses used in rotation—leaving him tied for 92nd place.
Location wasn't a justifiable argument for McIlroy's disappointing performance on Day 1, either, considering 11 of Thursday's top 17 finishers also played their opening round at St. Andrews, including Dunne and Hatton.
Graeme McDowell fared better than his Northern Ireland compatriot and carded a bogey-free 69 at St. Andrews to give him a share of seventh place alongside 12 others, with Shane Lowry among those.
Read on for a roundup of the opening day's action at the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, complete with a look at the leaderboard's top 10 as things stand.
Round 1 Leaderboard
T1. Nicolas Colsaerts: -5 (67, Kingsbarns)
T1. Paul Dunne: -5 (67, St. Andrews)
T3. Oliver Fisher: -4 (68, St. Andrews)
T3. Joel Stalter: -4 (68, Kingsbarns)
T3. Ryan Fox: -4 (68, St. Andrews)
T3. Tyrrell Hatton: -4 (68, St. Andrews)
T3. Shane Lowry: -4 (68, St. Andrews)
T8. Graeme McDowell: -3 (69, St. Andrews)
T8. Jeunghun Wang: -3 (69, St. Andrews)
T8. George Coetzee: -3 (69, St. Andrews)
Visit the official European Tour website for a breakdown of the leaderboard in full.
While McIlroy's muddied start to the tournament got underway at St. Andrews, Hatton and others were more successful on the Fife links course and managed to keep mistakes down to a minimum.
Hatton's tally of two birdies—both on the back nine—was still slightly higher than most of his higher-placed peers, but it was shots such as his approach on the 357-yard 18th that steered him into early contention:
The European Tour @EuropeanTour
Lovely touch @TyrrellHatton. 👌 The defending champion is one off the top after 18 holes. https://t.co/eJXJNHTnvA2017-10-5 16:27:25
The Englishman racked up a higher-than-average six birdies to make up for any errors, and after winning last year's competition four strokes clear, Thursday served as a precursor he could be back on top form in Scotland once again.
The same couldn't be said for McIlroy, though, although the three-time runner-up isn't giving up on his chances for a title this weekend just yet, per the tournament's official Twitter account:
Alfred Dunhill Links @dunhilllinks
“I’ve started slow here before and have played my way into contention. I feel I can do the same again.” @McIlroyRory (73 on the Old Course). https://t.co/jvm1iwjhqd2017-10-5 14:50:22
McIlroy's Thursday outing produced a mixed bag of results that included a birdie on the first hole before a double bogey on the second took him two paces back. He was ultimately unable to muster more than four saved shots across the course.
That wasn't to say McIlroy's opening round didn't come without its highlights. The shorter holes opened opportunities to excel with his driving:
The European Tour @EuropeanTour
The 18th hole at the Old Course is 360 yards. Or one @McIlroyRory driver. https://t.co/sCZgAfhZNx2017-10-5 13:58:51
The early signs suggest Carnoustie course will be the most troubling of the three locations as no-one who played that course managed to crack the top seven, although joint leader Colsaerts whizzed around Kingsbarns Golf Club in impressive fashion.
He was forced to hit back from adversity early on, too, and golf writer Harvey Jamison praised the Belgian's fortitude in hitting back from a triple bogey on the first hole to end up with a first-round score of 67:
Harvey Jamison @HarveyJamison
Nicolas Colsaerts has flushed it around Kingsbarns today. Opening his round up with a 7 to then go on to card seven birdies. #DunhillLinks2017-10-5 14:15:44
Dunne also showcased some encouraging signs for what's to come this weekend and backed up Sunday's win at the British Masters with an almost faultless display at St. Andrews.
Thursday's leaderboard gave some indication as to which stars are in hot form, but the rotation of courses means the order can alter drastically before the cut is decided on Friday.