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Donaldson is eyeing Portrush return

 

Happy times: Jamie Donaldson with the Irish Open trophy at Royal Portrush in 2012
Happy times: Jamie Donaldson with the Irish Open trophy at Royal Portrush in 2012

By Phil Casey

Jamie Donaldson set his sights on an emotional return to Royal Portrush after ending day one of the ASI Scottish Open one shot off the lead.

Donaldson won the Irish Open at Portrush in 2012 but is currently not in the field for next week's Open Championship at the same venue after being sidelined for seven months following wrist surgery.

Three places in the year's final Major are up for grabs for players not already exempt who finish in the top-10 at the Renaissance Club, where the former Ryder Cup star carded an opening seven-under par 64 alongside Andy Sullivan, Thomas Aiken, Kalle Samooja, Lee Slattery, Erik van Rooyen and Thomas Pieters, to lie one adrift of leaders Romain Wattel, Matt Kuchar, Nino Bertasio and Edoardo Molinari.

"To play next week would be huge," said Donaldson, who secured the winning point at Gleneagles in the 2014 Ryder Cup but is currently ranked 1,199th in the world. "If I can get into a position to get in that would be just fantastic and I would be really, really buzzing to get back there.

"I played great today, I just need to keep going, try to hit the same shots as I've been hitting. I've been playing quite well but getting nothing out of it.

"It has been tough getting going again after seven months out, the momentum is not quite there but it's a case of keeping going until you start to put it all together again."

Donaldson has missed the cut in four of his six events in 2019, including last week's Irish Open where Sullivan finished joint second behind Spain's Jon Rahm.

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"Last week was amazing, finishing tied second and having a chance to get close to winning and again a great start this week," said Sullivan.

"It's all about building momentum and fortunately my game is starting to really feel like it's coming back to where I want to."

American Kevin Na has withdrawn from next week's Open at Royal Portrush due to injury.

Na has been replaced in the field by Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini, with American Brian Harman now first reserve. Former World No.1 Martin Kaymer is second reserve.

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