THE top two remained the same but there were some significant thrusts behind them on a day when praise was heaped on the condition of the King’s Course despite Mother Nature trying her best to intervene in the second round of the £50,000 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship.
After a flash flood caused a 45-minute delay around mid-morning, Buchanan Castle’s Jason McCreadie cemented his position at the top of the leaderboard, a 66 for a 12-under-par total of 130 doubling the 2008 winner’s lead over West Linton’s Gareth Wright (67) to a couple of shots at the halfway stage.
It’s been an impressive display by the pair so far because, while the greens are receptive following the rain that has been falling on and off since the opening blow was struck on Sunday lunchtime, the rough around this fabulous course is thick and punishing for the latest instalment of the Tartan Tour’s flagship event.
“You don’t want to be in there,” reported Greg McBain while Greig Hutcheon said it was “an instant chop out” and described it as “dangerous in terms of scoring” after the pair had both catapulted themselves up the leaderboard with sparkling efforts of 63 and 64 respectively.
McBain, winner of the Paul Lawrie Invitational at Deeside last year, was three-over after 13 holes in his opening round. “I could have played myself out of it but battled back after holing a 30-footer for an eagle-2 at the 14th,” said the 29-year-old Gamola Golf-attached Aberdonian.
His “kickstart” yesterday came a lot earlier, though he had to wait until water was cleared from around the hole at the first before rolling in a ten-footer to save par. Nine birdies went down on the card thereafter, the pick of which saw 20-footers drop at the fourth and sixth.
“It’s not a bad place to be,” added McBain after slotting himself into third position on eight-under, four behind McCreadie. “The course is very good, the greens are spot on and hopefully I can keep things going as I’m lying second on the Order of Merit after getting the season off to a good start.”
Bidding to reclaim a title he won in 1999, Hutcheon had eagle, holing from 15 feet at the tenth, and seven birdies as he managed a nine-shot improvement on an opening effort that contained a quadruple-bogey 8 at the third.
“It’s a better one after yesterday’s catastrophes and I needed something like that to get myself back into contention,” declared the Tartan Tour No 1. “I’m feeling tired after a busy summer,” he added of a schedule that has seen him make the cut in the PGA Championship, Scottish Open and Scottish Challenge.
“But I didn’t make any mistakes today and also putted very nicely on greens that are immaculate. Even with the rain we’ve had, they are perfect.”
After near-perfect opening salvos, McCreadie and Wright maintained their positions despite the occasional misfire. “I hit a couple of bad ones but got away with them,” admitted McCreadie, picking out an opening tee shot into a bunker that could easily have led to worse than a bogey going down on his card as one example.
“I also found the rough at the fourth but made a good up and down there at an important stage of the round,” added the leader, who regained his mojo to cover the last 13 holes in five-under.
A one-time Bob Torrance pupil, McCreadie, who turns 43 today, now works with Rowallan Castle-based Ross Aitken. “He was teaching Foxy (Graham Fox) when he won last year,” he observed. “Maybe that’s an omen, you never know.”
Wright, feeling tired after a restless night, struggled with his timing but still felt he’d “left a few shots out there”. Stressing it was far from an easy test, last year’s British Club Pros’ champion said: “You can be really punished, as I was when finding a really bad lie at the 15th and dropping my only shot of the day there.”
Helped by a hole-in-one at the 178-yard eighth, Alan Duncan was amongst the 37 players on four-over to make the cut, but those to miss out included Gullane’s Emma Fairnie. Only the third woman to play in the event, she finished with an eagle-3 for a 70 but fell two short on 148.