Scottish Open: Graeme McDowell three off Gullane pace after 66

Graeme McDowell plays an approach shot at the 13th at Gullane on Thursday
Graeme McDowell has managed only one top-10 finish this season

Graeme McDowell produced encouraging form as an opening four-under-par 66 left him three shots off the lead at the Scottish Open at Gullane.

McDowell was on course for an even better round but two closing bogeys dropped him three behind Danish leader Thorbjorn Olesen.

"It's always disappointing to finish with a couple of bogeys but I played some good stuff today," said McDowell.

Michael Hoey is seven off the pace after an opening 70.

Belfast man Hoey, 36, was two under par after birdies at the second and seventh but three bogeys during the remainder of his round meant he had to settle for a level-par effort.

McDowell missed the cut when bidding for a third successive French Open title last week, a second round of 78 being his worst score in 32 rounds at Le Golf National.

The 35-year-old said he needed to "clear his mind" of thoughts about technique and looked to have succeeded with his opening 66.

Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen
Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen leads at Gullane after an opening 63

McDowell carded four birdies in succession in a front nine of 30 and also birdied the 16th before three-putting the 17th and 18th.

"I drove the ball well and the putter was quite spicy the first 11 or 12 holes before cooling down.

"But I would have taken 66 before going out and I will take it now."

McDowell said he and coach Pete Cowen have been studying videos of his swing from 2010, the year he won the US Open at Pebble Beach and holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

"I'm trying to get back to basics and we have narrowed my stance and used my body to swing the club how I used to," McDowell added.

McDowell's round was matched by Offaly man Shane Lowry plus American stars Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar with another US Ryder Cup player Jimmy Walker among a group a stroke better on five under.

Padraig Harrington warmed up for his Open challenge at St Andrews by carding a 68 with Damien McGrane on 69.

Paul McGinley slumped to a 76 after carding a triple bogey at the first.

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