Peter Fowler leads Scottish Senior Open after ‘hell of an effort’ at Craigielaw

Australian Peter Fowler celebrates after a closing birdie in the Scottish Senior Open at Craigielaw. Photograph: Phil Inglis/Getty Images
Australian Peter Fowler celebrates after a closing birdie in the Scottish Senior Open at Craigielaw. Photograph: Phil Inglis/Getty Images
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“Hell of an effort,” opined Paul Lawrie as he delivered the perfect summary of Peter Fowler’s second-day score in the Scottish Senior Open. As the wind that was rarely a factor in the men’s and ladies’ events along the road at The Renaissance Club returned with a vengeance on the East Lothian coast, the 60-year-old Australian produced a truly remarkable effort at Craigielaw.

His five-under-par 66 was the best of the day by four shots. Reflecting the tough nature of the test, only four players in a field of 54 broke par. The majority found themselves in reverse gear, but not the man known to his fellow professionals as ‘Chuck’. Out in level-par, former World Cup winner Fowler made six birdies as he stormed home in 30.

The effort moved him to five-under-par, two shots ahead of overnight leader Lawrie (72), with Englishman Paul Eales (70), the 2016 winner, and Austrian Markus Brier (70) one further behind heading into the final circuit in the £250,000 Staysure Tour event.

“I had a lot of good irons, kept them low,” said Sydney-born Fowler, who grew up playing in the wind and still relishes that additional challenge. “I also stayed short of the hole and left myself with uphill putts, that really helped.” As did rolling in a 40-foot birdie putt at the fourth hole – his 13th.

Hopes of a seventh title triumph on the seniors’ circuit seemed unlikely when he started on Friday with a triple-bogey 7 after losing a ball with his opening tee shot at a driveable par 4. “It was a pretty dark day,” admitted the Auckland-based player. “I didn’t hit a bad shot, it wasn’t great but I didn’t deserve to lose the ball. There are disasters everywhere, you just never know when they will happen. You just have to stay focused and hang in there. I’m pretty tough. I’ve been through a few form losses and injuries down the years. I can handle the tough breaks.”

Lawrie, who is making his debut in the event, is lurking ominously after showing his scrapping qualities. In contrast to when he signed for a 68 in the opening round, the 50-year-old struggled in the conditions. In the end, he was pleased to finish the day with Fowler in his sights after rallying on his back nine with three birdies.

“I didn’t play well on my front nine,” said the Aberdonian. “It was a real struggle, to be honest. I hit a lot of really poor shots and couldn’t get the ball to start on line with the putter. It was a blowing a gale. Man, it was not easy out there.

“As soon as Chuck posted four-under, which I saw after nine holes, your job is to get it as close to that as you can. I then played quite nice on my back nine. When you are not having a good day, you’ve just go to grind it out, which is what I did.”

Slowly but surely, Lawrie is getting a spring back in his step. He genuinely feared for his career a little over a year ago when he was forced to shut down his season due to foot and back issues. Both can still be troublesome, but he’s determined to turn this opportunity into another success on Scottish soil after already landing wins in The Open, Dunhill Links Championship and Johnnie Walker Championship in his European Tour days.

“I don’t have an ego and I don’t have a big head, but I turned up this week thinking if I play decent I’ve got a chance and that’s how it has to be from now on in the seniors,” he said. “There’s a lot of good players out here, but I feel as though if I’m fit and playing half decent, then I should have a chance and that’s hopefully what it’s going to be tomorrow.”

Eales, who won this title at Archerfield Links in 2016, is licking his lips at the prospect of another windy test on the last day. “I don’t thrive in conditions like that – I just survive!” said the 56-year-old from Southport with a smile. “But coming from the seaside it is nothing untoward. The quality of shots I’ve been hitting is good and I don’t mind a bit of wind.”