Eagles, sadly, have become a common occurrence, at least for good players, on the 18th hole on the King’s Course at Gleneagles due to the golf ball travelling a lot further these days than when the original challenge was set by the legendary James Braid.
However, the one made by Tartan Tour stalwart Greig Hutcheon that earned him a tie for the lead with Paul O’Hara heading into the final round of the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship was actually something to shout about and not just because it was his third eagle there this week.
In the second round, Hutcheon had been left with just a 9-iron for his second shot from around 160 yards but, from a new back being used for the first time, it proved a tougher proposition on this occasion. In fact, it was back playing as it used to in the days of the Bell’s Scottish Open at the Perthshire venue. “It was 295 yards to get over the saddle from the tee today and I watched both Paul O’Hara and Paul McKechnie (playing in the group in front) hit their tee shots into the upslope,” said Hutcheon as he painted a picture of the different challenge from the opening two days in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event.
“It was going to be a big hit for me to get over it so I said to ‘Shifter’ (his caddie) that I should take a 5-wood to stay out of trouble then hit a 5-wood again. It worked a treat as my second shot from 277 yards came off perfectly. In fact, it almost went in for an albatross.”
The eagle saw Hutcheon, a two-time winner in this event, sign for a 68 to sit alongside O’Hara on 10-under-par, a shot ahead of Chris Currie, with Greg McBain, Paul McKechnie and Graham Fox also still in the mix heading into the final circuit.
“If I can pull it off tomorrow, I think this would be my best win as it is probably one of the last chances I will get due to the younger players on the circuit being so good,” admitted 46-year-old Hutcheon, who is attached to Paul Lawrie Golf Centre.
O’Hara, last year’s Order of Merit winner and leading that title race again this time around, has been knocking at the door in this event in recent years. He set up another last-day title tilt with a second successive six-under 66.
The 32-year-old, who is attached to North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd, was level-par for the day through seven holes before reeling off back-to-back birdies. He then added four more on the back nine to give himself a chance to claim the one big prize that has eluded him so far on the PGA in Scotland circuit. “I played quite steady today and it would be nice to go out tomorrow and complete the set of Tartan Tour titles,” he admitted.
Unlike the others up at the top of the leaderboard, O’Hara has already secured a place in the PGA Play-Offs in Turkey next month through finishing runner-up in the PGA Pros Championship earlier in the year. “A lot of the guys will be looking over their shoulder as they try to secure the four Play-Off spots up for grabs, but I’m already in so I can just go out and give it a go,” he added.
Currie, a member of last year’s PGA Cup-winning side at Foxhills in Surrey, moved into third spot on the back of a 65, which was matched by Fox, the 2012 champion. “It is good to be in the mix as my season has been mince,” declared Currie, the club professional at Erskine.
Others still in with a chance if they can go low on the last day include, Steven O’Hara, Paul’s elder brother, as well as two other former European Tour players, Jamie McLeary and Craig Lee.