Golf: David Drysdale makes splash to shoot 66 and share lead
MUCH thought and pots of money have gone into spicing up the challenge of the famous 18th hole on Wentworth’s West Course. The way it was conquered yesterday by David Drysdale, however, definitely wasn’t in the masterplan proposed by the project’s chief consultant, Ernie Els.
The Scot walked off with a birdie-4 and a share of the lead after a six-under-par 66 in the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship but couldn’t believe what he’d just witnessed. Neither could this correspondent or those lapping up the sunshine on the verandah of the corporate hospitality suites around the picturesque green.
Five-under par standing in the middle of the fairway, the 37-year-old turned his back in disgust after hitting the total opposite shot to the one he’d been trying to execute. Instead of cutting it in with a hybrid club – he had 212 yards to the front and 222 to the pin – he turned it over.
As Drysdale himself admitted afterwards, the result from the same shot hit “a thousand times” would have been a watery grave in the front-left hazard, the most controversial element of those changes made to the hole by Els in recent years.
His ball did, indeed, splash straight into the water. Right into the middle of it, in fact, where the water is quite deep. Yet, it somehow managed to bounce out, allowing a relieved Drysdale to pitch up to 4 ft and hole the putt.
The Hearts fan may have been happy with last Saturday’s Scottish Cup final outcome, but he was just as pleased with this welcome slice of luck as his effort took pride of place on a day of rich pickings among the Scots.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I am delighted it did – it was amazing,” he said after signing for his second-best opening score of the season and his first sub-70 effort in 11 rounds at the Surrey venue. “I don’t know if I hit a fish or something. It was a lucky break – but I’ll take it.”
Having paid no less than ten visits to the Qualifying School in his career, Drysdale is more used to chiselling away at the coalface on the European Tour than taking centre stage in its flagship event.
He was third in the Joburg Open in January and has missed just two cuts in 11 events. But, at 65th in the Race to Dubai and 291st in the world rankings, the Cockburnspath man admitted it was a pleasant surprise to see himself atop the leaderboard alongside Irishman Peter Lawrie.
“I can remember watching this event when I was very young, so it is nice to be there or thereabouts,” he added. “I have been hitting the ball well from tee to green, but not holing many putts. I was also unlucky with a back injury, but I had some treatment from [former SRU physiotherapist] Stuart Barton in Edinburgh and then had six days in the heat of Dubai and haven’t felt it since.”
According to Drysdale, the leading Scottish players have become fair-weather players. “We would all prefer to play in these conditions, apart from maybe Paul Lawrie, who loves it when it is horrible,” he said of a sun-kissed and burning hot day on the outskirts of London. There was plenty of evidence to back that up yesterday as six players, including Lawrie, ended the opening salvo close to the top 20.
Marc Warren, out in the first group of the day, set the early clubhouse target with Els on 68 and is tied for 21st alongside compatriot Scott Jamieson, who transformed his round with birdies at the final four holes as he signed off with a flourish.
Two-over after three, Lawrie recovered to post a fine 69, which was later matched by both Richie Ramsay and the three-times Wentworth champion, Colin Montgomerie.
A year ago, Jamieson, on his first appearance in the event, was tied for eighth at the halfway stage before slumping to closing rounds of 85 and 78 to finish second last, 25 shots behind the winner, Luke Donald.
“I think I’ve learned to play the course a little more conservatively off the tee,” replied the 28-year-old East Kilbride man when asked what he has learned from that chastening experience.
When Lawrie dropped shots at the first and third, it seemed as though the former Open champion might be suffering a hangover from his sore semi-final defeat in the World Match Play Championship in Spain last Sunday, where he had been four up early on against Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts. With the whiff of a possible Ryder Cup return in his nostrils, however, no round is a lost cause for him at the moment.
“Today was brilliant,” admitted the Aberdonian after repairing that early damage with three birdies before the turn then three more on the inward journey. It was an effort that contained just 28 putts. “When you have a chance of the Ryder Cup, you have to keep churning it out week after week and, when you putt out like I did, you’re going to have a good score,” he added.
Ramsay, who has recorded four top 20s, including second place in the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea, in his past five outings, covered the last three in two under as he made another encouraging start, while Montgomerie signed for six birdies in his matching three-under effort.
On a day when the temperature climbed into the 80s, three of the players up near the top of the leaderboard also soared on the back of eagles. Dubliner Lawrie had one at the fourth as he earned a share of the lead, while Welshman Jamie Donaldson bagged a brace, the second coming at the par-5 last.
Swede Niclas Fasth signed off with a 3 as well late in the day to sit in a group on 67 that also includes England’s Justin Rose and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.
World No 1 Rory McIlroy has work on his plate after an untidy 74 that included a club-throwing incident at the 12th that could land him with a fine, but defending champion Donald is handily placed after a 68, two less than Lee Westwood, last year’s runner-up after a play-off.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West