JOHN Daly may have suffered an early exit but the Scottish equivalent of golf’s “Wild Thing” is still here. On a day of fightbacks at Murcar Links, Chris Doak reckoned he’d “stolen” his first-round victory in the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Matchplay. His reward is a clash today with the tournament host in the last 32.
“Is it? Oh, ya beauty,” declared the Livingston-based 37-year-old when told of the all-Scottish encounter he’d set up after recovering from being four down leaving the fifth green to win on the last against Englishman Anthony Wall, who finished tied 12th in the recent Open Championship at St Andrews.
If the cameras had been there, it would have been the Shot of the YearChris Doak
Doak, a colourful character like Daly – who was defeated by Jorge Campillo – and partial to the odd refreshment off the course as well, has “fond memories” of this venue, having kick-started the Challenge Tour career that led to him earning his European Tour card by finishing third in the 2006 Scottish Challenge on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
“A wee bit of fight came in,” he said of giving himself another reason to like it on a day when Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale also progressed following gritty comebacks and Marc Warren won as well in a match that produced the best figures. “I holed a couple of long putts and a couple of chip-ins,” added Doak. “One at 12 was a beauty. I had missed the green way left, lobbed it over the bunker and it went in. If the cameras had been there, it would have been the ‘Shot of the Year’.” Talking about its context in the match, he said: “That was a dagger in the heart and I just squeezed it in.”
Along with every other player in the line-up, Doak is grateful to Lawrie for putting on this new event. That won’t stop him trying to beat the local hero, though. “There might be a smirk at the end,” he said with a smile. “Match Play is a funny game. I didn’t feel I hit the ball well today. I was probably five-over but won.”
Apart from his beloved Aberdeen suffering a 2-1 defeat to Kairat Almaty in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier in Kazakhstan, it was a satisfying day for Lawrie. He was vindicated in believing that his fellow European Tour players would love going head-to-head on this gem of a course. He’d also have been pleased to see so many Scots progress, as well as the likes of former European No 1 Robert Karlsson and big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts. More than anything, though, he was pleased with his own 5&4 win over Frenchman Romain Wattel.
“It was a really solid day and I played nicely. I didn’t give Romain much leeway,” said the Aberdonian. A stickler for detail, he’s been hands-on this week. “I don’t think I will ever complain about a small thing at a tournament again,” he admitted. But the moment he stepped on to the first tee it was time to get the work clothes on. “The last couple of days have been busy, but this morning it was nice to be a player again,” said Lawrie.
With Ramsay also progressing, the locals were certainly happy and, with 32 matches to watch, there was no denying they got value for a £15 admission. “That was the idea,” said Lawrie. “We wanted people to see it was good value to come in and spend all day here. If you go to a football match you are £25 or £26 to get in for a couple of hours. You are £15 here and they have backed us. There are a lot of people here and a lot of support for all the players.”
As for the course, both the test it provides and the condition it is in has led to rave reviews. “There is not a player who hasn’t been raving about the venue or the idea,” added Lawrie. “They’re all loving it. Nice feedback is always good for the people who put in all the work.”
After his one-hole win over Englishman Richard Bland late in the day, Warren insisted there was more pressure on Lawrie, as the host, than him as the Scottish No 1 this week. “There were a few people walking round so you are under a little bit of pressure to perform for them,” acknowledged the 1999 Open champion. “You know they are there to watch you. I normally do alright in that situation so it was nice to go out there and play some nice golf.”