"I've not seen you guys for ages," said a smiling David Drysdale as he was greeted by a gathering of Scottish scribblers having emerged late in the evening with a four-under 67 to finish in the upper echelons of the Scottish Open leaderboard.
He gave his own reasons why he has been lesser spotted. "I've been playing crap," he added wryly. Since he shared eighth in Singapore back in May, Drysdale has missed four of his last five cuts. This was more like it, though. "The last six weeks have been very poor," said the 39-year-old, who chipped in on the short 17th to join his fellow Scot, Marc Warren, in a share of fifth. "I don't know what it's been. Maybe a lack of focus perhaps? Today, I was totally focused, though."
Warren, meanwhile, took three putts to get down from the front left of the first green to open his challenge with a bogey but, 17 holes later, he was sitting pretty with a four-under score.
Having blasted an eight-under card during the closing round of qualifying for the Open at Gailes last week, Warren has certainly got into his links stride. Feeling refreshed by the simpler approach of his new coach, Alan McCloskey, the two-time European Tour winner looks ready to mount another serious assault on the Scottish Open bounty. Two years ago at Castle Stuart, he led with four holes to play only to slither off the top on a ruinous run-in. Redemption may yet be found here at Royal Aberdeen in an event that continues to stir the senses and rouse the passions.
"When I finished that day [in 2012] I just wanted to go back to the 14th tee; that's how quickly I wanted to get back there," he said. "You think about it and you dream and think 'I should have done this' or 'I should have done that'. At the end of the day I can't change it. But I can dream about changing it. And that's one of the things I'll be doing this week, I'll be dreaming of winning this tournament.
"They do say winners are dreamers who never give up. Winning this would be like winning a fifth major and having come so close does give me that little bit more motivation."
Russell Knox marked his first professional appearance in his homeland by trundling in a 20-footer for birdie on the first en route to a tidy 68 as he slipped seamlessly back into the old routine of links golf. "It's just like riding a bike really; it's still in there," he said.
Martin Laird, fifth in last year's championship, posted a 70 which was burnished by an eagle-2 on the 15th, while Tartan Tour stalwart Greig Hutcheon also carded a one-under score. Alastair Forsyth, who was given a late invitation to the Scottish showpiece, showed his battling qualities to salvage a 70 of his own. A half-shanked tee-shot on the fifth led to a crippling triple-bogey seven but Forsyth rallied with back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh to kick-start his recovery. "That got the triple out of my system and it was important because after a hole like that, it's easy for the round to just spiral," he said.
Stephen Gallacher's 72 was hampered by two three-putts and one four-putt, while the Balgownie links hit Paul Lawrie where it hurts as a late triple-bogey six on the 17th led to a 74. "I hit a lovely shot right down the pin and it's pitched on the green but has taken a hard bounce and gone over the back into the bushes," he seethed. "It's kicked me in the b*****ks today."