As had been the case in Ayrshire, the 34-year-old finished on four-under-par after 36 holes in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier at Moray Golf Club. The irony of that wasn’t lost on Doherty as his agony turned to joy after winning the shootout for five spots in this week’s £3.25 million showpiece at Castle Stuart.
The one-shot victory, earned with rounds of 68 and 70, secured a cheque for £7500. “That’s why (his wife) Jocelyn is smiling,” he said before enjoying a celebratory hug with the couple’s two-year-old son, Harley.
What mattered more to Doherty, though, was clinching one of those coveted spots. Despite holding a European Tour card in 2014, the former Australian Amateur champion didn’t get to play in his home Open. That, coupled with coming so close in last Tuesday’s Open qualifier, having pushed Montgomerie all the way to the wire, made it appropriate that he is now heading towards Inverness instead of Slovenia, where he was due to play in a Challenge Tour event this week.
“I’m delighted to have bounced back like that,” admitted Doherty as he savoured clinching his spot along with Alastair Forsyth, Peter Whiteford, Gareth Wright and Kris Nicol at the end of a day when fortunes fluctuated throughout. “It is funny how things have worked out after what happened on Tuesday and, to be honest, I was actually more nervous today than I was then.”
Doherty has now given himself a second chance to be in the field for the season’s third major as four Open Championship spots will be up for grabs at Castle Stuart.
“I’m playing well enough to give myself a chance,” he added after breaking out of the pack with a two-putt birdie from long range at the par-5 17th.
“It is nice to finally get into a Scottish Open. I’ve never been to Castle Stuart and I’m looking forward to it. It’s just starting to sink in.”
Forsyth played in all three of the Scottish Opens at the Highlands venue between 2011 and 2013, twice finishing in the top 30.
The two-time European Tour winner is only playing part-time these days, though, having taken a step back from the weekly grind of professional golf to start doing a bit of coaching at Mearns Castle on the outskirts of Glasgow. His success in being among the qualifiers, therefore, was just as satisfying for the 40-year-old.
“It is the first time in a long time that I am actually enjoying playing golf,” admitted Forsyth after carding a second-round 70 to finish alongside Whiteford (70), Wright (69) and Nicol (72) on three-under. “The Scottish Open is up there with the best events on Tour and it is brilliant to be back, having played in it every year since my first season on the circuit in 2000 through until missing out at Gullane last year.”
Whiteford, Wright and Nicol all holed testing par putts at the last to progress, the latter’s effort from two feet looking as though it was going to stop on the lip before toppling in. “What a relief to see that drop in,” confessed Nicol, who hails from Fraserburgh and is hoping to his attachment to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre to fix up a practice round with the 1999 Open champion this week. I’ll pester Paul to see if he’ll guide me round the course,” added the 31-year-old, smiling.
Whiteford’s success secured a return to the venue where he finished eighth in 2012, when the Fifer made a hole-in-one at the 11th in the second round, while Edinburgh-based Welshman Wright is getting good at this particular qualifying lark, having passed the test for the second year running.
Watched by his old man, Craig Lawrie made his first competitive hole-in-one at the 190-yard 145th with a 7-iron. Unfortunately for the 19-year-old, it came straight after a double-bogey, which effectively left him finishing up two shots short along with local amateur Kyle Godsman.