IT is the wind that makes links golf. It is the same wind that breaks the resolve of golfers. Castle Stuart has the reputation, at least, when hosting the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, of being as accommodating as the Waldorf Astoria.

The event has been played three times on the course near Inverness and winners have recorded a joint total of 53 under par.

A brisk breeze blew up yesterday, however. It left fewer than 25 players under par in its considerable wake and blew away the hopes of others like so much chaff. “Yeah, you’d call it a wee breeze,” said Craig Lee, whose levity may have been a by-product of a one under par 71 that left him just two shots behind the leaders, Felipe Aguilar of Chile and Scott Hend of Australia.

Lee, 39, of Stirling, who leads the 17 Scots in the field, said: “It was a fair old test. In years gone by there’s been low scoring, but this a good test of golf.”

There were casualties. Peter Whiteford, the 35-year-old Fifer, carded a nine at the first, but fought back to limit the damage to a 76. There was no such consolation for others. Jin Jeong, the 26-year-old Korean, had two eights in a back nine of 48 to card 88. He did not suffer alone. A series of cards were pock-marked by sixes and sevens as nature confounded technique.

But if the wind posed questions, then there were those of quality who had the answers. Padraig Harrington, winner of three Majors, shot a fine 70 under the worst conditions of the day.

Graeme McDowell, the 36-year-old Northern Irishman, also has form in resisting the demands of difficult courses, most pertinently winning the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach.

He once described Castle Stuart as an “easy links” but reconsidered his position yesterday as he played beautifully to record a two-under par 70. “This wind really shows the teeth of the course,” he said.

Like many, including Phil Mickelson who shot 76, McDowell has one eye on next week when The Open visits Royal Troon. He has finished twice within the top 10 at golf’s greatest tournament and insisted: “The Majors are obviously special, but Scottish Open is a big event. It would be great for my confidence to play well here. I want to try to stay patient. I feel I’m playing well and just need to hang in there this weekend.”

Hopes are high that a squad of Scots might just do that. Lee leads the way but Russell Knox, David Drysdale, Jack Doherty, Richie Ramsay all carded par while Marc Warren and Jamie McLeary are just one over. The rest of the brigade face a battle already to make the cut with scores drifting down to Alastair Forsyth with an 83. Among the strugglers are the redoubtable Colin Montgomerie (78, six over), double major winner Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie, victor at the Open in Carnoustie in 1999.

Rounds stretched to more than five hours with delays on greens, particularly the 12th, as players were understandably careful when addressing putts, fearful that the balls would move with the consequent penalty.

Mickelson, a previous winner at Castle Stuart, had no problems with the weather. When informed the wind was forecast to blow yet again today, he said: “I hope it does. I think it’s fun. I enjoy it because this is a golf course that accommodates these weather conditions. The fairways are wide. The greens are a fair width. When you get downwind, you have plenty of room short of the green to run a ball on.”

He was also sanguine about being on the wrong side of the draw as the afternoon starters had the worst of the wind.

“Today we had the bad side,” he said. “But who is to say tomorrow afternoon it doesn’t become horrific and we get the good side? You just never know.”

He and others would be mindful too that a blowy Castle Stuart may be good preparation for Royal Troon. As they say, it’s an ill wind…