Liam Johnston enjoyed his opportunity to watch Bryson DeChambeau from close-quarters - even though the world No 5 wasn’t exactly in the mood for much small talk during the third round of the Saudi International.
While not firing on all cylinders, Johnston certainly wasn’t fazed by playing in the same group as the on-form DeChambeau, carding a level-par 70 as the American signed for just two shots less at Royal Greens.
“Playing with someone like him definitely makes you realise that you are not a million miles away from being at that level, so it is definitely encouraging,” said the 25-year-old from Dumfries. “It is such a fine line from the top to where I am at the moment.
“You see his game close up and it is pretty relentless ball-striking all the way. He was two- under today, but it could easily have been a few shots less.”
DeChambeau’s win in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last weekend was his fourth victory in just nine events, showing that his scientific approach to golf definitely works for him.
Speaking after his brilliant 61 on Friday, world No 3 Dustin Johnson said DeChambeau’s way would never work for him, claiming his thought process is more straightforward. “I get a number, I see which way the wind is blowing and I hit it,” he said, smiling.
Johnston, the Scottish one, admited: “I’m more DJ 100 per cent. If I bog my head with too much going inside it, I won’t hit good shots.”
It was a very poor one from DeChambeau - he flew the green with a wedge - that saw a dark cloud descend over him from the start in Johnston’s company.
After a heavy-handed chip, he threw that club towards his bag and it was the same story with the putter after failing to save par.
The steam was still coming out of his ears as he walked a good distance of his playing partner and their caddies down the second fairway.
“I was trying to not listen to what him and his caddie were talking about. Me and Ken (Herring) stuck to what we were trying to achieve out there,” said Johnston.
“There wasn’t too much chat between us overall, but I think that was more down to the fact he was a bit mad early doors. He seems like a nice enough guy, though.”
One of just two Scots to make it to the weekend in the European Tour’s newest event, Johnston almost chipped in for an opening birdie before opening with svene straight pars.
When he moved to one-under for the day after bouncing back from a bogey at the eighth with birdies at the 10th and 12th, the former Scottish Stroke-Play champion was still sitting inside the top 20.
Back-to-back dropped shots then dropped him down before making a birdie at the 17th and then coming agonisingly close to holing from a bunker for another one at the last.
“I didn’t hit it my best today, to be honest,” he said after an effort that left him sitting joint-27th on four-under. “But my short game was really good and it helped me salvage level-par in the wind.
“I’m pretty pleased how I fought today, but I have a few things to iron out this afternoon on the range.
“I was fine off the tee for most part but I was missing left quite a bit with my irons. I got it going better on the back nine and I am pretty sure I know what was going on. I just need 15 minutes on the range to sort it out.
“It is all about getting your bad rounds to be around level-par or a couple-under maybe. That being the case, I’m pretty pleased with how it went today.
“I hit a couple of loose shots that cost me bogeys, but for most part I was was to come out with level par in wind when I probably had a C minus game out there.”
Bob MacIntyre, the other player left flying the Saltire out of eight starters on the Red Sea coast, had another frustrating day on the greens as he shot a 71 to sit joint-52nd on level-par.
“I played great today,” said the 22-year-old left-hander from Oban, who has now made it to the weekend in five of his first starts as rookie on the circuit. “In fact, that is as good as I’ve played since Hong Kong (the opening event on the 2019 schedule in November.
“I feel I putted good but just could not get it in the hole. That’s frustrating, but I just need to keep my chin up.
“I must have had seven chances from ten feet and, though I felt my stroke was good today, I still couldn’t hole anything.
“I just need to hole one early doors to get some momentum. Today I had a seven-footer and the first and a 12-footer at the second and didn’t hole either of them.”
One-under after six holes, his only deviation from par thereafter was a double-bogey 6 at the tough 13th, where he found water.
“I tried to hit a hard draw and that doesn’t suit me,” he said. “I pulled it too far right. I’ve signed for one-over and found myself thinking, ‘how?’.”