It was all rather fitting that in the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews, Calum Hill conjured, well, a heroic effort.
With a swashbuckling performance that could’ve featured in a Marvel Comic storyline, the 26-year-old Scotsman fired a surging nine-under 63 to claim the first round lead and set a new course record over the Torrance Course. It was a good day at the office.
The luck of the draw certainly favoured Hill as he took advantage of the relatively calm morning conditions and got home and dry before the wind picked up, the temperatures plummeted and the links became a very different animal for the later starters.
Poor old Chris Doak, for instance, trudged in with a sobering 90 which included a couple of eights and a 10 on the 18th. It’s a cruel, unforgiving business.
There was no such calamity for Hill. “We got the best part of (the weather), 100 per cent,” said the Kirkcaldy man with a satisfied smile. “Our front nine was relatively calm, probably half a club wind. We got three quarters of our day in quite pleasant conditions.”
That front nine was where Hill made his initial advance. Starting on the 10th tee, the three-time Challenge Tour winner unleashed an early salvo of four birdies in a row from the 12th. Another gain on the 18th, where he dropped a lovely approach into a couple of feet, saw him turn in 31 blows and he continued his assault with a quartet of birdies on his back nine.
Hill’s bogey-free card set a robust early clubhouse target that nobody could match and he ended the day a stroke clear of Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell, with Ross Fisher, Robin Sciot-Siegrist and Chase Hanna a shot further back.
After an impressive start to the season, which included a share of fourth in Saudi Arabia and a third in Kenya, Hill has gone off the boil in recent weeks. He’d missed the cut in three of his last four events but a return to the home comforts this week has given him a timely tonic. His putter behaved itself too, which always helps. “I putted well,” added Hill. “I didn’t put it in places that caused me too much bother. I had one really good 15-footer on number one to save par and a lot of mid-range putts for birdies.
“I really enjoy it (playing at home). There’s a lot of family and friends who can come and watch. When people are watching and rooting for me it gives me a little spur.”
As Hill assumed command at the head of affairs, Richie Ramsay and David Law, two other members of a 17-strong tartan army this week, tucked themselves into the top-10.
Ramsay reeled off five birdies in a neatly assembled 67 and was joined on that mark by his fellow Aberdonian Law, who has posted back-to-back top 20 finishes on the European Tour over the last fortnight.
Grant Forrest was the next best home hopeful on 68 with David Drysdale and Scott Jamieson both signing for 71s.
Caldwell, meanwhile, led the hunt of Hill with a 64 that included an eagle two on the seventh. The former Walker Cup player won his first tour title in Sweden in June but has since missed his last four cuts.
“It’s a bit of a pendulum,” he said of golf’s fickle fortunes. “You work on one thing and it works for a week or two then you over-do that and have to find a way to get it back.”
‘Twas ever thus.