Saturday, July 02, 2016

AAM Scottish Open two-round qualifier

Munro and Murray set pace with 66s at Lossie
Ross Munro produced the best effort of his young career to set the pace along with George Murray in the opening round of the £50,000 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier at Moray Golf Club.

On a day when the Lossiemouth venue managed to escape heavy showers in the surrounding area, the pair carded matching five-under-par 66s to sit in pole position in the battle for five spots in next week's £3.25 million showpiece at Castle Stuart.

Twelve months after Tantallon's Calum Hill thrilled the North Berwick locals by passing the same test to tee up with some of the game's big guns at Gullane, Kyle Godsman is on course to emulate that feat in his home patch after the Moray member opened with a 67 to sit joint-third alongside Kris Nicol.

Also to the fore heading into the second and final round are Graham Fox, another of the qualifiers last year, after he opened with a 68, as did Jack Doherty, Paul O'Hara, Ian Campbell, Marc Owenson and Ross Cameron.

Munro, a 22-year-old who cut his golfing teeth at Liberton before joining Alastair McLean's staff at Duddingston three-and-a-half years ago, signed for six birdies, a day after he'd played the course for the first time.

"I was speaking to a couple of the lads who'd played here in a PGA EuroPro Tour event three years ago and they told me what to look out for," said Munro, who finished sixth in the P&H Championship, the opening Tartan Tour Order of Merit event of the season, at The Renaissance Club in May.

"It's a course where you have to be defensive off the tee due to a combination of the gorse and the bunkers being perfectly placed, which is why my 3-wood was nicely warmed up today."

Murray, who has played in four Scottish Opens, including the event's last visit to Castle Stuart in 2013, was three-under after four before birdieing the last two holes, rolling in a 25-footer at the 18th.

The 2010 Scottish Challenge winner was forced to pull out of Tuesday's Open qualifier at Gailes Links in Ayrshire during the first round due to a sore back, so was equally delighted with his opening salvo.

"I've been to see Shelley Wares for some phsyiotherapy twice this week and she's had me doing some stetching and exercises that are definitely helping," said the 33-year-old Fifer, who is attached to Kingsbarns Links.

Godsman, a 25-year-old who topped the Scottish Order of Merit last season, lives in nearby Hopeman but has been a member of this weekend's host club for seven years. He, too, reached the fifth tee standing on three-under before illuminating his card with an eagle-3 at the 17th.

"I've caddied in the Scottish Open Pro-Am at Castle Stuart in the past, including for one of the amateurs who was in the same group as Jeev Milka Singh when he won in 2012," said Godsman.

"What Calum Hill achieved last year in this event showed everyone what is possible and I'm up and running nicely with this effort."

Nicol, who is attached to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, book-ended his opening effort with birdies, having knocked in a 12-footer at the first then converting one from 18 feet to finish.

"I played here quite a bit as an amateur," said Nicol, who hails from Fraserburgh. "I also finished in the top 10 here in a PGA EuroTour event in 2013, so it's a course I like."

Clydeway Golf colleagues Fox and O'Hara carved out their opening efforts in different ways - one feeling he was fortunate to have signed for a 68 while the other achieved that in stress-free fashion.

"It was a 68 going on 75," declared Fox. "I can't remember getting that many breaks in a round, but I will certainly take them as I'm still in with a chance of securing one of those five spots."

O'Hara, who got his season off to a flying start by beating Fox in a play-off to win the P&H Championship in East Lothian, echoed that sentiment after a round that contained just one blip at the 11th.

"I've bee playing well the last few weeks and hopefully I can go out tomorrow and shoot another round under par," said the 29-year-old.

Two-time European Tour winner Alastair Forsyth sits in a six-strong group on 69 along with Craig Lawrie, Paul's oldest son who was watched by the 1999 Open champion as he bagged four birdies.

However, Greig Hutcheon's hopes of making his fifth Scottish Open appearance in the last six years are looking slim after the newly-crowned Northern Open champion slumped to a 75.

"I hit a few bad ones today, including one that led to a double-bogey at the 10th," reported the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Inchmarlo man. "My hopes of making it to Castle Stuart are gone, I think, unless I can go out tomorrow and shoot seven or eight-under."




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