Justin Thomas fires 62, leads Scottish Open

Justin Thomas rolled in eight birdies and claimed the solo lead at the Scottish Open on Thursday with a first-round 62 at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick.

Thomas stands one shot clear of South Korea’s Sungjae Im (63), who bogeyed the first and 17th holes on his opening 18 but has a stroke on five players tied at 6-under, including Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg, Justin Lower, Germany’s Maximillian Kieffer, China’s Haotong Li and Belgium’s Thomas Detry.

“It’s always good to get off to a good start, and even better to get off to a great one,” Thomas said of his bogey-free round, his 11th career tournament lead through 18 holes. “I felt like I was in great control of everything. Just when I missed it, I missed it in the right spots and had a lot of really quality shots. On those 4-, 5-, 6-footers to kind of make something out of them, I stole a couple with some long or mid-range putts.”

Aberg is tied for fourth or better for the third time in his last four starts.

His approach on 8 would have landed inside of 15 feet to the cup had it not landed directly on top of Morikawa’s resting ball, kicking both further from the cup in opposite directions. Instead of a birdie putt, Aberg wound up with a one-of-a-kind bogey. Morikawa made his putt for a birdie on the par-4.

“You can’t really see the bottom of the flagstick from the fairway. So I didn’t see it,” Aberg said. “I thought I hit a decent shot, and we just saw the ball just go straight sideways. And I didn’t really know what it did but then we kind of realized that’s pretty much where Collin’s ball was and then I saw his ball go that way. So it’s just one of them — I’ve never seen it before. Probably not going to see it for a long time again.”

Im had nine birdies in his first under-par score in five career rounds at The Renaissance Club. He missed the cut in each of his two previous appearances at the Scottish Open.

Thomas posted his best first-round score since the 2017 Sony Open as part of a rebound season that includes five top-10 finishes in 14 starts on tour this season.

He posted eight birdies in a round for the 54th time in the last 10 years, more than any other player on Tour with ideal playing conditions: 58 degrees, dry and moderate wind speeds.

“Obviously this is as easy as you’re going to get a links golf course weather-wise and conditions. When you drive it well like I did for the most part today, you have a lot of short clubs, and I see nothing but the pin,” Thomas said. “You have opportunities to get the ball close with some slopes. If I have a good number, for the most part I’m trying to figure out how I can hit it as close as possible. I’m not scared to do so.”

Defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Tommy Fleetwood of Great Britain and Morikawa are among the 15 players tied for eighth at 5-under. John Deere Classic winner Davis Thompson is also in that pack looking to win his two career starts.

McIlroy, starting his round on the par-5 10th, recovered from two early bogeys with a birdie-par-eagle-birdie stretch on his back nine.

“Especially on the front nine, our back nine, I started to hit some good drives, some good iron shots,” McIlroy said. “You know, I give myself plenty of chances on that back nine and actually felt like I left a couple out there, as well. You know, overall, a good start, especially after sort of the scrappy start over the first six or seven holes.”

–Field Level Media