SCOTTISH golf is beginning to ‘Bounce’. The Edinburgh-based sports management company carrying that name saw star client Stephen Gallacher retain his Dubai Desert Classic title last weekend.
Now it’s in with a chance of a back-to-back double after two of his stablemates, Craig Lee and Alastair Forsyth, stayed in contention at the halfway stage in the Joburg Open.
Three weeks after holding the lead heading into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Lee’s name is back at the top of a European Tour leaderboard entering the business end of a tournament. A second-round 67 on the marginally easier West Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club wasn’t what Lee had been hoping for after covering his first eight holes in eight- under to be out in 32.
Nonetheless, it was good enough to secure a share of the halfway lead with former Scottish Open champion Edoardo Molinari, the pair sitting on 11-under-par to hold a one-shot cushion over home hope George Coetzee and England’s David Horsey. Forsyth, playing the two courses the other way around, signed for a 70 on the East Course to sit joint-fifth on nine-under in a group that also includes Korean Jin Jeong, the Amateur Championship winner at Muirfield in 2010.
“I’m only halfway there but the idea is to try and follow up Stevie G’s win last weekend,” admitted Lee, who missed the cut himself in Dubai but stayed on and was enjoying a beer in the clubhouse as his stablemate created history by becoming the first player in the event’s 25-year history to retain the title.
Now Lee, who was pipped in a play-off by Thomas Bjorn in the European Masters in Switzerland last September, is hoping it will be his turn to be the toast of Scottish golf this weekend, though he’s certainly not going to get ahead of himself in an event that is offering three spots in this year’s Open at Royal Liverpool as well as a top prize of around £170,000.
“I’m in a good position and feel I’m playing better than I was when I led going into the final round in Abu Dhabi,” said the Stirling man, who took a two-shot cushion into the last round there but had to settle for a share of tenth after signing off with a 77 in the company of Open champion Mickelson. “I putted well in the first three rounds in that event but wasn’t entirely happy where the rest of my game was, especially my driving.
“I’m feeling more comfortable with my driver now and that has been shown by having three or four steady rounds. It’s still the same driver, the only difference being that they’ve added a bit more weight to it for me.
“These are the positions I want to be in and the more I can do that the more comfortable I’m going to be. I may not have to be worrying about players like Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy but there’s still good strength in this field. The whole pack is after me so I’m certainly not going to be taking anything for granted.”
Forsyth, bidding to land his third Tour triumph after getting a card back at last season’s Qualifying School, would also have been sharing the lead but for a double-bogey 6 at the 15th – his sole blemish in two rounds.
“I was very steady without doing anything great and certainly didn’t see a double coming,” he said. “I pulled my tee shot at the 15th a touch and caught the edge of the hazard. But I’m in the mix and it’s good to be playing some steady golf.”
Molinari, getting back to his best after injury problems, is an ominous threat, as are the likes of Coetzee and two other South Africans, Justin Walters and Thomas Aiken, on a crowded leaderboard. But Lee is hoping the odd good bounce this weekend can go for either him or Forsyth. “A win for either myself or Al would be great for Bounce – that would be tremendous for Stoddy [founding partner Iain Stoddart]!”