ON-FORM Robert Arnott is bracing himself for a “tough shift” when he shares the lead heading into today’s final 36 holes of the £50,000 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship.
Winner of last week’s P&H Championship at Dundonald Links, the 50-year-old is on course for a notable early-season double on the Tartan Tour after carding rounds of 69 and 67 on the King’s Course.
“You’ve got to take it while it’s going, as form doesn’t last that long,” joked Arnott after bagging five birdies in posting the joint-best round of the second day along with his co-leader, Kemnay-based Greg McBain.
Arnott, who is attached to Bishopbriggs Golf Range, has been trying to win the Tartan Tour’s flagship event for the past 20 years. The closest he has come was in 2005, when he finished third behind Paul Lawrie and David Drysdale on the neighbouring PGA Centenary Course.
“You’d love to win your national title but there are so many good players in Scotland and there are some quality names on the trophy,” he added of the likes of Bernard Gallacher, Brian Barnes, Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and the aforementioned Lawrie having claimed the title.
Arnott described last weekend’s triumph in Ayrshire as “probably the biggest win of my career” and admitted that has been a “confidence booster”, especially at an age where he’s now in the senior ranks.
“It’s going to be a tough shift tomorrow,” he said of having to play two rounds in one day but those chasing the leader will know that he’s as fit as they come at 50.
McBain, who turns 30 later this month, signed off with an eagle-3 in the last match of the day to prevent Arnott from holding a two-shot cushion. “That was my longest putt of the day,” said the 2012 Paul Lawrie Invitational winner of a successful 25-footer.
Fourth behind Chris Doak in 2010, McBain has chalked up a couple of top 10s in the event since then. “My game is pretty good at the moment,” he reported. “Moving to Kemnay has freed up more time to play and practice.”
Leading the chase, two shots back, are Paul O’Hara (Clydeway Golf), Mark Kerr (Marriott Dalmahoy) and Christopher Robinson (Portpatrick Dunskey).
By the sounds of things, O’Hara, who won the Scottish Assistants’ Championship last year in his first season on the Tartan Tour, might find that stamina test more of a concern than Arnott. “I’m feeling quite ill,” reported the two-times Scottish Amateur Championship runner-up after signing for a second 69. “I was in my bed all day Sunday and have hardly had anything to eat since then.”
As a consequence, his legs were starting to wobble a bit towards the end yesterday. “With two rounds tomorrow, I’ll need to go away and get something to eat now to try and build up my strength,” he added.
Kerr, who led by three shots at the halfway stage in this event two years ago but failed to finish off the job on that occasion, is hoping a more relaxed attitude to his golf can pay dividends this time around.
“I’d rather shoot 70 and enjoy it than shoot 66 and not enjoy it,” declared Kerr after signing off with three birdies for a 70, one less than 25-year-old Robinson signed for as he stayed in contention for a top prize of around £9,000.
“I’m trying to take as much pressure as possible off myself and have jotted down some messages in my yardage book to remind myself that I’m playing golf and should be enjoying it,” added Kerr. The 32-year-old divides his time these days between golf and helping out in the family pub, the renowned Canny Mans in Edinburgh’s Morningside. “I’m a full-time player from April to October and still have golfing aspirations,” he said. “But it’s nice to have other things such as being more involved in the pub.”
Buchanan Castle’s Jason McCreadie, the 2008 winner, eagled the last in his 68 to sit three shots off the lead alongside Caldwell’s Christopher Currie and West Linton’s Gareth Wright, runners-up in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Making his first appearance in the event in 13 years, four-times champion Ross Drummond is just five off the pace after rounds of 69 and 72. “I don’t know which might give up tomorrow – me or the electric trolley as the battery is for only 18 holes,” said the 57-year-old.
After sharing the first-round lead, Drummond’s fellow former winners, Graham Fox and Chris Kelly, now trail by four and five shots respectively, while defending champion Greig Hutcheon has a six-shot deficit to make up.