NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — About to start his first event as a major champion, Jon Rahm was taking some practice swings on the first tee at the Scottish Open when his status as golf’s hottest player was underlined.
“On the tee,” the official starter said, “the U.S. Open champion, the Race to Dubai champion, the world No. 1 from Spain, Jon Rahm.”
An opening round of 5-under 66 saw him live up to the billing on Thursday.
Rahm mixed seven birdies with two bogeys over the links at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick and was two strokes off the lead held by Jack Senior, a 353rd-ranked English player who was upstaging one of the best fields assembled on the European Tour for some time.
No. 3-ranked Justin Thomas holed a 90-foot eagle putt and also birdied the last to wind up in a tie for second place with Lee Westwood, with both players shooting bogey-free 65s.
Rahm was a further stroke back in a nine-way tie for fourth and showing his game remains in great shape after a two-week break following his win at Torrey Pines for his first major title.
“I was a little surprised by it,” Rahm said of his introduction on the first tee. “I didn’t expect it. And my ego might have gotten a little too big. I tried to hit it too hard on No. 1.”
Another major is coming up next week — the British Open at Royal St. George’s in the south of England — and that explains why there is such a strong lineup at the Scottish Open, which is regularly used as a warmup event due to it also being played on a links course.
Of the other high-profile names, No. 11-ranked Rory McIlroy birdied two of his last three holes and shot 1-under 70 along with Collin Morikawa, last year’s PGA Championship winner and the world No. 4.
Xander Schauffele, the No. 5, shot 67.
Senior, who has never won on the European Tour despite a stellar record as an amateur, blotted his round of 64 by bogeying his last hole — the No. 9 — after starting at the 10th.
Before that, he had rolled in eight birdies, including four in five holes from No. 4.