No longer can Paul Lawrie, Colin Montgomerie and Alan Tait lay claim to being joint holders of the Carnoustie course record. That honour now belongs solely to Tommy Fleetwood after the Englishman eclipsed efforts from the Scottish trio, as well as seven others, with a scintillating nine-under-par 63 in the second round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The brilliant effort in the same group as Rory McIlroy came in the 26-year-old’s first event since becoming a father for the first time after his partner Claire gave birth to a son, Franklin, last Thursday. It earned Fleetwood, who tops this year’s Race to Dubai by just under a million points, a share of the lead on 11-under-par after two rounds in the pro-am event with his compatriot, Tyrrell Hatton, after the defending champion carded a 65 at the same course.
In addition to his new tag, Fleetwood also shares the course record at St Andrews, having shot a 10-under-par 62 on the Old Course in this event in 2014. To complete the set when he moves on to Kingsbarns today, the Lancastrian will have to shoot the first 59 on the European Tour as South African Branden Grace and American Peter Uihlein share that on 60 at the moment. “Sounds good, doesn’t it,” replied Fleetwood to hearing himself being referred to as the Carnoustie record-holder for the first time, having achieved the feat in the countdown to the Open Championship being held at the Angus venue next summer. “Any time you have a course record, especially on a golf course like this, it’s brilliant to have. Yeah, I’m very proud at the moment.”
In favourable conditions – the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been when a 69 had been the best score at the same course on Thursday – Fleetwood was out in three-under 33 before transforming his day with a burst of five straight birdies from the 11th. He was unlucky when a putt from off the green for a 2 stayed out at the 16th and justice was certainly done when his 12-foot birdie effort dropped in at the last after doing a full circle around the rim of the hole.
“I didn’t know that putt on the last was for the course record,” he said. “I wanted to shoot nine-under, but I didn’t know the significance of it until my playing partner Ogden [Phipps] came up and told me I’d just shot the course record. Just Kingsbarns to go now – but two out of three’s not bad.”
McIlroy, who also birdied the last but is 11 shots off the lead after a 71 that included a double-bogey 7 at the sixth, was the first to congratulate Fleetwood on his spectacular effort. “Rory just said ‘really well played, that’s a great round of golf’ so that’s always nice to hear from people like that,” admitted Fleetwood before McIlroy reported: “He never put a foot wrong all day, it’s a special place to get the course record. It was great to watch.”
Hatton, who has done a grand job so far in his first title defence, admitted that it had been a day that Carnoustie was effectively defenceless. “It wasn’t as tough as it can be, so the guys that have played here today were very lucky,” said the Marlow man after signing for seven birdies, four of which came in the last six holes. “The putter came alive for me today,” he added, having maintained a good run of form to give himself a chance of becoming the first player to win this event back-to-back.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts sits a shot behind the two leaders, followed by Irishman Paul Dunne and German Marcel Siem, with David Drysdale in a five-strong group on eight-under after he backed up being one of the best performers in those tougher conditions at Carnoustie on Thursday with an equally impressive five-under 67 at Kingsbarns.
Drysdale, who overcame recovering from a torn calf to tie for ninth two years ago to effectively secure his European Tour card, is being partnered this week by Mike Rutherford, one of the founder members of Genesis, and his groups so far have included singer Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres.
“I’m not really a Genesis fan, but Mike is good fun, so I’ve been having some good craic with him. He is still touring and was actually in Berlin on Tuesday night,” said the 42-year-old Cockburnspath man. “It’s great in between shots. You find yourself chatting about so many different things. They’re in their 60s, but are still going strong. I don’t think I’ll still be doing this when I’m 60!”
On a day when Paul Lawrie pulled out due to his troublesome foot injury, Stephen Gallacher birdied the last for a 67 at St Andrews to be next best among the Scots on five-under. “I could have shot 60 today,” said the 2004 winner. “It’s probably the closest I’ve ever hit it around here. I think I missed five putts inside 12 feet. But I’m pleased to get back in the hunt.”
After a second successive 70, Scott Jamieson sits on four-under, one ahead of Marc Warren, with Richie Ramsay, Grant Forrest, Connor Syme and Liam Johnston all on two-under.
Ramsay, the top Scot in the Race to Dubai, followed a double-bogey 6 at Kingsbarns with five birdies in the next seven holes before dropping shots at the 15th, 16th and 17th as he signed for a 71.
Forrest matched Gallacher’s effort at St Andrews, where he also signed off with a birdie. It was a gritty fightback after he’d opened with a 75 at Kingsbarns.
“I had my work cut out after yesterday, so today was a good effort,” said the Craigielaw man, who made the cut on his debut as a pro in this event 12 months ago. “I feel I’m back in it. I love Carnoustie. It’s the toughest of the three courses, but I’m looking forward to grinding it out tomorrow.”
Syme, who is making just his second appearance as a pro after finishing joint 12th in the Portugal Masters a fortnight ago, had a mixed bag of five birdies and three bogeys at Kingsbarns while pro debutant Johnston had a 70 at St Andrews.
“It’s been alright so far,” said Johnston, who won both the African Amateur Championship and Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship this year. “I don’t feel out of place playing in this event, it’s great motivation heading into the Qualifying School as this is where you want to be.”
Duncan Stewart beat his opening effort by 14 shots with a 68 at St Andrews but even a repeat of that at Carnoustie tomorrow is unlikely to see him make it through to the final round as he fights to hang on to his card.