JASON McCreadie, the 2008 winner, and Gareth Wright, pipped in a play-off three years ago, produced the two outstanding efforts on a rain-softened King’s Course in the first round of the £50,000 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship.
On a day when all 66 competitors were greeted on the first tee by recently-appointed PGA in Scotland secretary Brian Mair, Wright posted a six-under-par 65 in the second group out only for McCreadie to beat that by one soon afterwards.
“It’s not a bad wee start,” admitted McCreadie of his opening salvo, which contained an eagle at the tenth, where a 30-footer dropped, and seven birdies. “I played sensibly for a change, hitting lots of fairways and greens.”
Despite heavy overnight rain that led to the Perthshire course being closed first thing, play got underway on schedule due to an uncustomary lunchtime start for the Tartan Tour’s flagship event.
Not that it seemed to bother either McCreadie or Wright as they wasted no time opening up big cushions on some of the pre-tournament favourites.
Defending champion Graham Fox, for instance, had to settle for a 71, while Tartan Tour No 1 Greig Hutcheon ran up a quadruple-bogey 8 at the third en route to a 73.
“The course is in great nick and the rain has softened it up as it was a bit fiery when I came up for a practice round,” added McCreadie after his flying start.
For Wright, it was a case of feeding off the confidence he gained from playing in all four rounds at Muirfield on his Open Championship debut. His round also included an eagle – at the 18th – in addition to five birdies.
“I’ve just carried on playing nicely from last week at Muirfield,” said the Welshman who is attached to West Linton and lives in Edinburgh. “I also like everything up here – the course and the resort.
“I lost to Chris Doak at the fourth extra hole in 2010 and it would be fantastic if I could win this event – it would be a great honour.”
Nine years after that honour went to Craig Ronald, the Carluke club pro turned back the clock with a 67 to sit as the nearest challenger to McCreadie and Wright.