Craig Lee takes charge of Scottish PGA Championship at Scotscraig
The 46-year-old recovered from an early excursion into a bush and posted a charging six-under 65 for a nine-under 133 to overhaul the first-round pacesetter, Jordan Brown, who dropped back into second.
Lee’s wayward drive off the second tee forced him to take a penalty drop but the bogey there provided the catalyst for a quite rousing surge as he birdied six of his next seven holes to barge his way to the head of the field.
“That riled me a bit and it got me on a run,” said the former DP World Tour campaigner, who was runner-up to Thomas Bjorn in the European Masters a decade ago. “To be four off the lead at the start and to finish in the lead is very pleasing. The birdies dried up a bit coming home with a few slack tee-shots but I would’ve gladly taken six-under after what happened on the second hole.”
Despite winning the Scottish Assistants’ Championship, the Northern Open and the Tartan Tour’s Order of Merit down the years, the Scottish PGA Championship has eluded Lee and he has been runner-up four times.
“Someone asked me the other day if I fancied my chances and I said, ‘I’ll probably finish second’,” he said with a wry grin. “I’d love to win this. When you’re coming up through the ranks you always have targets and the Scottish PGA Championship was always one that I wanted. It would be nice to finally tick that box. But there’s a long way to go.”
Brown had led the way after his fine 64 on day one but he was swiftly on the back-foot in round two with a bogey on the second and another leaked shot on the sixth. The 29-year-old kept his composure, though, and his patience was rewarded with a late rally which salvaged a level-par 71 for a seven-under tally.
A birdie on the 14th was followed by another gain at the 16th as the host club pro repaired the earlier damage and kept himself in the title hunt.
“I had to fight harder today and was a bit nervy going out,” admitted Brown. “The round could have got away from me on the front nine but I stuck to my game plan and I’m very pleased to get in without much damage done.”
Graham Fox, the Scottish PGA champion in 2021 and 2012, got himself in the mix again with a 66 to lurk three off the pace on six-under. “I was hanging on to Craig’s shirt tails on the front nine and was thinking he would go even lower than 65,” said Fox, who is looking to add the national title to the Northern Open he won earlier in the season. “But I stuck in there and it’s nice to be in the hunt.”
Graeme Robertson kept “ticking over” with a 70 to join Fox on six-under while Ayr youngster Elliot Thom continued his impressive debut in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event with a 68 for five-under.
Paul O’Hara, last year’s runner-up, finished on three-under with defending champion, Alastair Forsyth, a stroke further back.
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