Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell best of the Irish on opening day at the Scottish Open

The pair sit side-by-side on two-under par, one shot adrift of the early clubhouse lead

Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell best of the Irish on opening day at the Scottish Open

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell finished best of the Irish after the opening day of the Scottish Open at the Castle Stuart Golf Links.

The pair have already guaranteed their places in next week's Open Championship and have only Michael Hoey and Paul McGinley compete this week in search of a spot at Royal Troon.

Harrington made the most of his time on the back nine today, picking up two birdies on 10 and 16 and holding par for the remainder of the holes.

The sailing wasn't as smooth on the front nine, a birdie on 1 was followed by a bogey on two and another birdie on 6 was followed by a bogey on 8.

Graeme McDowell said today that if the winds continued the way they were going after this opening round that next week's competition at Royal Troon would be "a grind".

The Antrim man picked up four birdies and two bogeys, both of which came on the tricky front nine and he explained how difficult the greens were playing. 

"Wind speeds certainly increased as the day went on," he said, "Holes like 18 here up on top were very, very exposed. Even the downwind holes are tough, you know it's very tough to get the ball close to the hole.

"You're doing a lot of long range putting. The greens are so slow because of the wind strength conditions, they have to keep a bit of grass on the surface. It's tough to get your speed up but the greens are very pure."

Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry both struggled to find their rhythm today, with Dunne picking up five bogeys and a double bogey and a birdie.

Lowry, who impressed at the US Open, also picked up five bogeys and a double bogey as well as two birdies to finish on five-over par.

Paul McGinley struggled in the conditions, carding an opening round 77, including three bogeys on the front nine. 

Michael Hoey, who continues to search for qualification for the Open, could only manage one birdie and three bogeys to finish on 74.