Chris Kelly tightened his grip on the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship title right out of the gates at Gleneagles by leaving the field scrambling again from the first round on the King’s Course.
The 41-year-old, now based in St Andrews, started last year’s gun-to-tape title victory with a 63 and went one better to open his defence with an eight-under-par 62 and an immediate four shot lead.
Two eagles, the second at the 18th, paced his brilliant performance as he bids to join illustrious names like John Panton, Eric Brown, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance and Ross Drummond as a four-time winner of the oldest professional-only championship in golf.
Newmachar’s Greg McBain lies second on 66 with a quartet a shot further back on three-under including former European Tour player Jamie McLeary.
Kelly won his previous titles on 2003 – on the PGA Centenary rather than the King’s – and in 2015 before claiming his third win last year.
“If only every golf tournament could be played here,” he said. “I holed a couple of putts at the first two holes – one from the back edge at the first from 25 feet back down the hill then a 30-footer at the second, and it just went from there.”
He eagled the long sixth, hitting a seven-iron to 12 feet, and then hit in to to 15 feet at the last at the last with a six-iron.
“It’s better than I expected as I have not been playing much this year and didn’t know what to expect this week, really,” he added.
The condition of the King’s has improved immeasurably in the last four years since the Ryder Cup with nearly an inch and a half of rain over the weekend shrugged off.
McBain also finished with an eagle at the last, while McLaery, maing his debut in the event, had six birdies.
A group on two-under 68s includes twice champion Greig Hutcheon is in a group on 68, 2012 winner Graham Fox and last year’s Order of Merit winner Paul O’Hara, fresh from playing at British Masters at Walton Heath last week.