Els withdraws from Scottish Open

Scotland's Russell Knox is hoping for a successful week at the Scottish Open

Scotland's Russell Knox is hoping for a successful week at the Scottish Open

"I would have loved to have been here", he said.

For those who have not already won a place, three spots in next week's Open Championship are up for grabs with a top 10 finish in Ayrshire, and Ilonen vastly improved his chances of competing at Royal Birkdale, recording birdies in five of his final eight holes for a seven-under-par round of 65.

What's worst is McIlroy got a front row seat of good friend Rickie Fowler working his way to an effortless five-under 67.

"I enjoy playing the week before the majors just to get myself ready to go, check off some boxes".

Rory McIlroy's frustrations with his game continued in the opening round of the Scottish Open as he posted a two-over-par 74.

Starting from the tenth, Ilonen birdied the 14th and 15th before catching first after the turn.

He had seven birdies in all five of them coming in six holes from Nos.

He and his wife Erica took the two-hour ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland on Monday, with McIlroy heading straight to the practice putting green upon his arrival."After catching the ferry, I got to the course here late Monday afternoon and did some putting on my own", said McIlroy, who recorded 33 putts for each of his two rounds in Northern Ireland last week. So new irons in the bag, 718s.

Harrington, 45, moved to nine under par after a second-round 68, level with Callum Shinkwin and Alexander Knappe.

Fowler, who won at Gullane in 2015 but did not defend his title a year ago due to scheduling difficulties, got up and running with a birdie at the 13th - his fourth - and added another at the next before breaking a run of six pars with three consecutive birdies from the third. He cut a frustrated figure on his back nine, chucking his club high into the air on his last hole after a weak approach.

The Englishman was runner-up the last time the Open was held at Birkdale and he would not be Ian Poulter if he did not believe he can go one better this time around, no matter what he says about having "low expectations".

Rory McIlroy feels his best golf is not far away as he prepares to tee up at the Scottish Open for the first time in three years to step up his preparation for the British Open.

From 4 over after four holes, McIlroy recovered to 1 over after 16, with three of his four birdies coming via tap-ins on par fives.

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