GULLANE - Justin Rose put himself into prime position for a successful defence of his Scottish Open crown after a second straight round of 66 at Gullane on Friday. The 34-year-old Englishman went out in 31 before parring his way down the relatively tougher back nine on the par-70 course which is a composite of the number one and two courses on the East Lothian links.

That left him at eight under for the tournament and the joint clubhouse leader alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry, who had identical back-to-back 66s, and Sweden's Johan Carlsson who added a 67 to a first round of 65. No player has ever won back-to-back Scottish Open titles and, were Rose to achieve that feat on Sunday, it would underline his position among the favourites at St Andrews in the absence of injured world number one Rory McIlroy.

Despite the low scores, Rose assessed his game as only "running at 50 per cent", adding: "There are still a couple of loose shots that I am getting away with on this course that I wouldn't on other courses. "But I feel like I have managed my game well, played the hard holes well and kept it clean." The 2013 US Open winner had a scary moment at the 16th when his tee shot struck an elderly spectator on the head, which led to a teenage fan fainting at at the sight of the resulting blood.

"I was pretty concerned walking up there and seeing there was someone on the ground, but he took it like a trooper and was talking to me so that was slightly reassuring. He told me had been coming to tournaments for years and years and had never got hit before." Rose's playing partner, Phil Mickelson, who won the 2013 Open just down the road at Muirfield, could only manage one birdie on the front nine and bogeys at 10 and 11 saw him flirting with the projected cut after 77 players broke par on Thursday.

But a run of three straight birdies from the 14th proved to be a timely tonic and he came in with a 68 to stand at three under for the tournament. Low-scoring was again the order of the day with calm conditions prevailing and the greens remaining soft and receptive. Sweden's Johan Carlsson was the first to get to eight under after setting out in the first group of the day. He had four birdies and one bogey en route to his 67.

"It was good. It was solid. It was a bit less wind today," he said. "Eight under after two rounds on this course, I'm happy with that." First round leader Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, who had a 63 on Thursday, struggled on the front nine. He opened with four straight pars, but a bogey at the fifth and a double bogey at the par-three seventh pegged him back. Meanwhile, England's Daniel Brooks, one shot off the lead overnight, moved out to nine under through 14 holes.