Thomas Aiken of South Africa tees off at the 12th hole in round one of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in Dubai in January. Photo: EPA/Martin Dokoupil

NORTH BERWICK – South African duo Thomas Aiken and Erik van Rooyen carded a pair of first-round seven-under 64s to share fifth-place in the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club, North Berwick, on Thursday.

Aiken and Van Rooyen are one shot behind four players leading on eight-under, with France’s Romain Wattell, American Matt Kuchar and Italians Nino Bertasio and Edoardo Molinari all carding 63.

Alongside the SA pair in fifth are England’s Lee Slattery and Andy Sullivan, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Finland’s Kalle Samooja.

A trio of South Africans are two shots further behind on five-under 66, with Trevor Immelman, Jacques Kruyswijk and Darren Fichardt in a tie for 18th.

After his round, Aiken said: "I was very pleased the way I played. The weather looked a bit gloomy this morning and thought we were in for a very wet day but seemed to clear up after a few holes. Conditions were pretty much as benign as you're going to get around here. I think the leaderboard showed that. But that being said, you've still got to put the ball in position on these greens. 

"They are pretty tricky and there's a lot of slope in them. When you get them on the wrong side of the hole, it's tough to two-putt. Overall, very pleased with the day's play."

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa on the seventeenth hole during a practice round for the 119th US Open Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in June 2019. Photo: EPA/Erik S. Lesser

Aiken had a run of five birdies in six holes on the front nine and put it down to a recent break.

"I've been away from the game a little bit this year, and the last few weeks have been a bit rusty. I think it's just kind of getting that rust off, and today felt a lot better. I was more in control and really hit the ball well from tee-to-green. I think I only missed one green the whole day, which was the 8th, and it was just off the green and unfortunately ended up three-putting it.

"I've actually been away for four months, so it really has been quite a long time, and getting back into tournament golf after not playing for four months is tough because you kind of lose your competitive edge. 

"Although you might still be able to hit a few balls and stuff, but you definitely lose that competitive edge, and I think the last two weeks, Valderrama, I played pretty well, but just wasn't quite there. 

"And last week, again, I played fairly well for the first, I'd say, 20 holes, and then kind of fell apart at the end. But now I am feeling in a good frame of mind and look forward to the second round." 

African News Agency (ANA)