IT’S in the blood. The words were spoken by Russell Knox, the local boy made good, at Castle Stuart yesterday, but they applied to a clutch of players who found links golf not only to their taste but almost a part of their DNA.

The leaderboard at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is headed at eight under par by Sweden’s Alex Noren who shot an extraordinary second-round 66, but he is being pursued by a pack of players that include three Scots in the top 20 and fellow links graduates Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Padraig Harrington of the Republic of Ireland who are just three shots off the lead.

The gathering of the clans is led by Richie Ramsay, the 33-year-old Aberdonian, who fired a fine 68 to sit four off the lead.

Marc Warren and Knox, above are two under, six shots adrift, but still in the hunt at a tour-nament that acquired a volatility in changing weather conditions yesterday. Jack Docherty, at one over, and Jamie McLeary and David Drysdale, both two over, made the cut, though Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle will now have time over the weekend to consider the challenge of Royal Troon and the Open Championship next week.

It is the complexity of the links that has given this Scottish Open such a fascinating story. The windy weather on Thursday gave way to conditions that were occasionally benign, creating a leaderboard that changed constantly. The first sign of a productive day for the Scots came when Knox, watched by family members, played beautifully, only to have cause to bemoan his misreading of the pace of the greens, a consequence of earning his living on the slicker US variety.

The world No 27 has earned more than $3 million this season and he showed why by largely taming a Castle Stuart course that had caused some consternation. The Scot could both reflect on an excellent round and ruminate on the joys of links golf after placing himself firmly in the hunt for a substantial slice of the £3.25m prize money this weekend.

“I played very well, better than the score,” Knox said. “I struggled with the greens a little speed-wise, but overall tee-to-green was good.”

Knox then said that playing links golf was “in my blood”, adding: “It truly is the best way to play. You can run the ball on the ground. It’s really fun battling the conditions.”

Knox has received honorary membership from Inverness Golf Club this week and has been the centre of media attention but he has not taken a step back. “I want to play well and be a star,” he said simply.

He was overtaken later in the day as chieftain of the Scottish clan by Ramsay who has the added incentive of trying to secure a place at Royal Troon. He said he would retire a happy man on Monday if he won his native Open in an increasingly benign Inverness but admitted Troon was an enticing prospect.

With a leaderboard that boasts Swedes, a New Zealander, Spaniards, an Italian, a South African and a burgeoning group of Englishmen, there is still room for a Scot to bring a home victory.

And lurking beyond the front runners lies Phil Mickelson, nine shots off the lead, but brimming with hope. He said after a casually brilliant 69: “There’s going to be a hot round out there tomorrow and I’m hoping to grab it.”

A feast of golf is assured as golfing’s finest seek to dine on the links.