With the Open Championship less than a week away the attention of the golfing world is firmly placed on Castle Stuart, the venue for the Scottish Open which effectively serves as a warm-up event for the Open. The big guns are out in force at the picturesque golf course with world number one Luke Donald, four-time major champion Phil Mickelson and three-time major winners Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington among those going for glory this weekend.
Francesco Molinari and Alexander Noren sit joint a-top the leader-board at -12 after Molinari shot 62 on Thursday while Noren hit consecutive 66s. The likes of Matteo Manessero, Ricardo Gonzalez and Shane Lowry are very close behind at -11. Defending champion Luke Donald is also well in the mix at -9 after two rounds in the 60s, although had more putts dropped he may have shot even lower. Former world number one Martin Kaymer held the lead at one stage today but dropped back to -9 after dropping two strokes in his last three holes. He was clearly disappointed with the end of his round: "Yesterday was good but today the back nine was a bit of a struggle; a bit of a s***** finish."
American four-time major champion made a special flew over especially for this week's tournament but looked unlikely to make the cut after a 73 yesterday. However today he looked right back on form as he shot a magnificent 64. He said that 'when the wind starts blowing 20 or 30 knots it becomes difficult'. Despite the good scoring conditions he wants better preparation for the Open next week: "I hope we get some bad weather as it is meant to be very wet and windy next week." He is right in the mix and no one will rule him out at just five shots behind going into the weekend.
Ernie Els has had a mixed start to the tournament consistently trading birdies with dropped shots for his first 36 holes. The 'Big Easy' has hit some magnificent shots but his putting has continued to be erratic and yesterday he took four shots to get out of a green-side bunker. Padraig Harrington has looked in ominous form recently and has been there or thereabouts in recent weeks. The two-time Open champion hit two 69s to take a seat well-placed at six shots back.
On the opening day Molinari hit an imperious round of 62 which featured ten birdies and eight pars. This followed on from his closing 64 at last week's French Open that stole him second place. Of his recent run of form he said: "I know it's not going to last forever, but I hope to keep this going a little bit longer - obviously next week, but the next month or so is really big for Ryder Cup." Today he could not quite match yesterday's performance but he still shot a two-under-par 70 to claim a share of the lead.
This tournament has given the spectators an excellent first two days with plenty of low-scoring. However if the wind picks up then the dropped shots start to appear on a more regular basis which would shake up the leader-board. Having said this, if the weather stays benign then it is still sure to produce a thrilling last two days as all the players continue to attack flags and hunt for birdies.