"It felt good but it's fun to go out on links and for me to hit shots and they don't necessarily have to be spot on", Fowler said.
Cape Town - South African icon Ernie Els has withdrawn from this week's Scottish Open in the lead-up to golf's third major of the year, the Open Championship, starting on Thursday, July 20.
Helped by three birdies at par-5s thereafter, McIlroy was able to fix some of that early damage but still finished seven shots behind one of his playing partners, Rickie Fowler.
"Anything that comes my way from here would be a bonus", said Harrington, who has played just nine events in 2017 and underwent surgery on a trapped nerve in his neck in March. He thinned his tee shot right at No. 8 his second-to-last hole using a rescue club, only to pull off a superb approach from the thick rough and salvage a par from 10 feet.
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. 1-6 and was delighted that a decision to use a new set of irons this week paid off.
Tournament favourite Rickie Fowler got off to a flyer with a round of 5-under 67 alongside a resurgent Ian Poulter, Callum Shinkwin and Andrew Dodt. It was found by a scorer in an unplayable lie, so Harrington took a penalty drop, hacked out and made the putt.
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And while McIlroy was not approached after his round, Fowler was full of confidence the four-time Major victor will turn around what is now three scores in succession where he has failed to break par.
"The Open Championship is eight days away".
The four-time major victor set the tone at his second hole, the 121-yard 11th, where his tee shot came up short left in a bunker.
Fox played his way into the field at Birkdale courtesy of his T4 result at last week's DDF Irish Open, his second consecutive top-10 in the rich Rolex Series of tournaments which have debuted this year.
No South African has ever won the Scottish Open, but with 12 players in the field this week there are some serious contenders to end that streak.