Tuesday 17 October 2017

Damien McGrane leads Irish challenge at Scottish Open

Damien McGrane on the 18th tee-box today
Damien McGrane on the 18th tee-box today

Ireland's Damien McGrane is four shots of the lead on eight under after the second round of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.

Open champion Ernie Els admitted he was glad to miss the cut in the Scottish Open, just days before the defence of his title at Muirfield, as unheralded Scot Chris Doak claimed a one-shot lead at Castle Stuart.

Els made an early exit after a second round of 70 left him two under par, 10 shots behind Doak and two outside the cut mark after another day of low scoring in perfect conditions.

"I thought I played quite well today but I had no idea on these greens so I am glad I am leaving to get on some other greens," the 43-year-old South African said.

"A missed cut is not great but we have had a great time here. I did not get the run of the course, it felt like it was against me, but I am playing nicely and gave myself a lot of opportunities.

"My game is where I want it to be. It did not quite go my way these last two days and I made a couple of silly errors, soft bogeys, yesterday. It's not the first cut I've missed and it won't be the last."

Doak, who previously made headlines in Scotland after blaming a bad night's sleep at a tournament in 2011 on his dog's flatulence, is playing only his second full season on the European Tour at the age of 35.

But the Glaswegian carded a second consecutive 66 to finish one shot ahead of English pair Matthew Southgate and Ross Fisher, American Peter Uihlein and Denmark's JB Hansen, with world number eight Phil Mickelson four off the lead on eight under after a 70.

"The first time around on the European Tour I was still wet behind the ears but the Challenge Tour definitely taught me how to play four rounds and handle the travel," said Doak, whose previous biggest payday of £28,000 is dwarfed by the first prize this week of £500,000.

"It's a tough environment because there are a lot of great players out there and you need to be consistent because there is not as much money. But anything that's worth learning takes time and hopefully it's coming together now.

"It's fantastic to shoot 66 and follow it up with another one and I'm really pleased."

Southgate was working in Pockets snooker club in Southend just three years ago - he has three centuries to his name - and made only three halfway cuts from 11 European Tour events last year, but is relishing the task ahead this weekend.

"I like getting a bit nervous and a bit tingly, that's what I live for," the 24-year-old said after equalling the lowest round of the day with a flawless 64 containing six birdies and an eagle. "If I am shaking like a leaf on the first tee tomorrow I will be enjoying it.

"It's been a tough season. Coming out of the tour school you are thinking about making cuts but that's a bit negative. I have been looking over my shoulder the whole time rather than playing to get into contention.

"I've done a lot of work on my putting and Robert Rock has been helping me out, but it's a shame I can't lie down on the green and use a snooker cue to knock them in! Every player needs a big break so if this can be mine bring it on."

Uihlein, who won the Madeira Islands Open earlier this season, recovered from a double-bogey seven on the 12th - his third hole of the day - to card a 66 thanks to eight birdies in his last 12 holes.

And the 23-year-old former world number one amateur hopes he can learn from his experience at the Irish Open two weeks ago, when he shared the lead at halfway but never recovered from fluffing a chip and missing a two-foot putt to double-bogey the third hole on his way to a third round of 74.

"It's all about trying to get into contention and slow everything down and work at my own pace," Uihlein said. "I feel like a couple of times I just keep getting too quick and my mind races a little too fast.

"I feel the more I can get myself into that position, the slower I can make things."

McGrane is the leading Irish player on eight under following a second round 69.

Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley are next best on five under with Darren Clarke two shots further back.

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