Scotland: World number two Lee Westwood shared the lead after the first round of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart on Thursday while his 2010 Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie also started well in an 11th-hour bid to snatch a British Open place.
Westwood, who could overtake fellow Briton Luke Donald at the top of the rankings going into next week`s major at Sandwich should he win in Scotland, fired a seven-under 65 along with Chile`s Mark Tullo.
Montgomerie carded a promising 67 although the Scot, who matched the score of playing partner Donald, was disappointed not to be even better placed to clinch a 22nd consecutive appearance at the British Open.
"Any time you play with the world number one and equal him around the course you`ve done okay but I should have done better," the eight-times European number one told reporters.
"When I made eagle I thought I was on to something but then I bogeyed two of the easiest holes. To miss the ninth (his 18th) fairway was a disaster. The thing`s 110 yards wide. I had to hit my second shot backwards.”
"I`m disappointed but then if I wasn`t disappointed, I`d give up. I`m here to do well -- I`m here to win."
The 48-year-old needs to finish in the top five to have any chance of a slot in the British Open.
"It`s a long time 21 years playing in the Open, a whole career, a championship I love, one I`ve finished second in -- I want to play again, I really do," he said.
Westwood and Tullo are one stroke ahead of last week`s French Open joint runner-up Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, South African George Coetzee and Swede Peter Hanson.
He appeared blase about the possibility of going to next week`s major as world number one or being favourite to win at Royal St George`s on England`s south east coast.
"I wouldn`t care if I was 1,000-1 to win," he said. "Or I would... I`d put a big bet on myself."
Tullo, in his rookie year and 232nd in the world, is a rank outsider in a high-class field, although he did see off U S Open champion Rory McIlroy last year to win the Egyptian Open on the lower tiered Challenge Tour.
Quadruple major champion Phil Mickelson carded a modest 73 to lie eight strokes off the pace.
The left-handed American has said he is trying to master links golf to claim his first British Open title but fell foul of the 14th when his ball returned to his feet from a chip to the green, causing him a double-bogey.
"I didn`t play very well around the greens and threw a couple of shots away," Mickelson said.