The 35-year-old Dornoch man swept into the final stage of the qualifying school for the web.com Tour, now the only gateway to the main circuit in the US, by winning one of the five second-stage events. Gunn closed with a four-under-par 68 at Oak Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, California, for a 13-under total of 275, pipping Xander Schauffele for top spot by virtue of a better final round. He now goes forward to a 72-hole shoot-out at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where 45 full cards will be up for grabs on the second-tier circuit as well as a prize pot of $510,000 on 10-13 December. “I have been playing great all year and the US Open, in particular, has really given me a lot of confidence,” said Gunn of his initial success in qualifying for the season’s second major then shooting rounds of 72-73-70-70 on a treacherous track.
“It was through making the cut at Chambers Bay that I was exempt into the second stage of the web.com Tour Qualifying School, which was fortunate, and I played really solid on a tough windy track. I only made two bogeys in the last three rounds, which was pretty good.”
Gunn, who is based in Arizona, is bidding to get back on the second-tier circuit, having lost his card after finishing 112th on the money list in 2014. “Although I made half my cuts, I couldn’t put four good rounds together,” he added. “Hopefully, I can give myself a chance to improve on that, but it’s still very difficult to get a web.com Tour card as a lot of people are trying.”
One event on Gunn’s radar next year is the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where Knox can expect a hero’s welcome in his home city of Inverness after recently becoming the first WGC winner from the home of golf. “I am very keen to play my home Open,” declared Gunn, who travelled over in the hope that he might secure the last invitation for this year event at Gullane only to lose out to Andrew McArthur. “I’m either going to have to qualify or play well enough to be granted an invitation. Being so close to home, I think I could boost ticket sales!” Charl Schwartzel, of course, can certainly do that in South Africa and the former Masters champion arrived at the halfway stage in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek with a commanding five-shot lead. It followed Schwartzel tacking a 67 on to his opening 66 to move to 11-under-par, well clear of a chasing pack led by compatriot Richard Sterne (70), Spaniard Pablo Martin (69), Frenchman Benjamin Hebert (70) and Dutchman Joost Luiten (70).
“Every year I’ve come back here, as soon as I arrive I get that real comfort feeling, a peaceful feeling, and it is to do with the surroundings, the nature,” said Schwartzel, a three-times winner at the Malelane venue. “It’s a place I normally go to to relax, so I am playing in a very relaxed environment. The last few weeks, I’ve been playing well, and it’s nice that a few things are falling into place a little better this week.”
Taking up where he left off at the end of last season, David Drysdale is the leading Scot, sitting joint ninth on four-under. He finished off his uncompleted first round with an eagle for a 71 before adding a flawless 69. After dropping three shots in his last four holes for a 74, Scott Jamieson just survived the cut on two-over, but Jamie McLeary’s bogey at the ninth – his last – saw him miss out by a shot. Craig Lee and Bradley Neil also made early exits.
In Sydney, world No 1 Jordan Spieth was heading into the third round of the Australian Open lying just four shots off the lead, held by home player Matt Jones on seven-under. That followed Spieth posting a second-round 68 at The Australian.
On the PGA front, Tartan Tour duo Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) and Gareth Wright (West Linton) both opened with three-under 68s to sit one behind Irishman Colm Moriary after day one of the end-of-season Play-Offs in Antalya, Turkey.