July 13, 2017 14:48 GMT by theguardian.com

Rory McIlroy misfires again as Poulter and Fowler set pace at Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy misfires again as Poulter and Fowler set pace at Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy faces an uphill battle to avoid a third missed cut in four events after struggling to an opening 74 in the Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy faces an uphill battle to avoid a third missed cut in four events after struggling to an opening 74 in the Scottish Open. McIlroy was hoping that memories of his last appearance in the event would kickstart his injury-hit season, the world No4 finishing 14th at Royal Aberdeen in 2014 before going on to win the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA in his next three starts.

But instead the 28-year-old produced a repeat of the recent form which led to him missing the cut in the US Open in June and in the defence of his Irish Open title last week. Starting from the 10th at Dundonald Links, McIlroy bogeyed the 11th and 12th and then span his approach to the 13th back into the burn which guards the front of the green.

The resulting double bogey was at least followed by a first birdie of the day on the par-five 14th, but another bogey on the 18th - where he pitched into a greenside bunker - took the four-time major winner to the turn in 40.

There was better news on the front nine as McIlroy took advantage of the two par fives and also birdied the seventh, but a bogey on the ninth left the Northern Irishman two over par, seven behind clubhouse leaders Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter and Callum Shinkwin.

Playing alongside McIlroy, the 2015 champion Fowler carded five birdies in a bogey-free 67, while Poulter and Shinkwin both had five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in their rounds. “I’m pretty happy,” said Poulter, who came through final qualifying for the Open last week and finished second the last time it was staged at Royal Birkdale in 2008.

“The last couple of days I don’t feel like I’ve hit it all that well, so I spent a bit of time yesterday on the range with Pete [Cowen]. I got myself in a couple of spots of bother, but pretty much swung it well, put it in position and made a few putts and it adds up to a nice score.”

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