Grant Forrest 'really happy' with Wentworth debut in strong BMW PGA start
Tyrrell Hatton first visited Wentworth when he was five-years-old whereas Grant Forrest had to wait until he was 27, but the differing history with the Surrey venue didn't stop the duo both making strong starts in the BMW PGA Championship.
On a day when Englishman Hatton carded a six-under-par 66 to set the pace in the $7 million Rolex Series event along with South African Justin Harding and Spaniard Adri Arnaus, Forrest was equally happy after marking his debut at one of golf's iconic venues with a 69.
Maintaining a nice habit of playing some of his best golf in the European Tour's showpiece tournaments, the Lothians man carded five birdies and two bogeys in more testing morning conditions to sit inside the top 20.
"It felt really good," said Forrest of his day's work. "It is playing quite tough and it's playing quite long. It was also pretty windy today, so you have to hit a lot of solid golf shots today. I was able to do that, so I'm really happy."
While he held a full European Tour card last season after graduating from the Challenge Tour, the circuit's so-called flagship event was one of the few Forrest missed out on due to the strength of the field.
"Tuesday was the first time I'd ever been here," revealed the former Scottish Amateur champion. "It's a great golf course. Obviously it's playing a lot different to how it usually does (due to the event now being held in the autumn as opposed to the spring).
"I think it's almost helpful for me having not seen it before. Having only seen it playing soft, I'm thinking not thinking it's normally like that. It's a great place and you can imagine it with rows and rows of crowds. It must be very special."
This event has provided some special memories for Scottish players over the years in the shape of title triumphs for Bernard Gallacher, Colin Montgomerie, Andrew Oldcorn and Scott Drummond, with Forrest feeling his game is in the right shape to build on this promising start.
"I didn't play too well when we first came back (after the Covid-19 break), but I had a decent result in Portugal (tying for 14th) then played quite nicely last week (finishing joint-19th in the Scottish Open)," he said.
"I feel as if I'm trending in the right direction and these two weeks are obviously worth a lot more points with stronger fields and it's nice to be playing well in Rolex Series events. For guys like myself who are not getting into majors this season, the event last week and this one can make or break your season."
Hatton, a back-to-back winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at this time of the year, looked every bit as much at home on an inland course as he signed for an eagle, five birdies and just one bogey.
The 29-year-old is making his first appearance on his home circuit this season, having been based in the US for almost nine months, but he grew up pretty close to Wentworth and, consequently, is way more familiar with it than Forrest.
"I've been walking around here from the age of five so I feel pretty comfortable on the golf course," said Hatton, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational during that stint in the States. "I've been round it so many times it almost has that home-course feel.
"To lift the trophy here is definitely a goal of mine and, hopefully, I can play well the next few days and give myself the chance to do that. That would be very special."Hatton, who is working well with his Scottish caddie, Mick Donaghy, underwent wrist surgery soon after winning the Turkish Airlines Open in a play-off under floodlights in Belek last November.
"I'm pleased with how this year has been so far on the golf course," said the 2018 Ryder Cup player. "I feel like I've put in quite a lot of work and I think playing pain-free is an added bonus as I definitely struggled with that for the previous two-and-a-half years."
On an afternoon of strong finishes, Open champion Shane Lowry birdied five out of six holes from the 12th for a 67 to sit alongside English duo Eddie Pepperell and Matt Fitzpatrick, as well as Malaysia's Gavin Green.
"It's a place I feel comfortable. It's a place I love, and I'm happy with the day," declared Lowry. "It was nice to hole a few putts, it's something I haven't been doing of late."
Aaron Rai, the newly-crowned Scottish Open champion, maintained his great run of form with a bogey-free 68, the same score carded later in the day by Justin Rose, with Forrest in a group that contains Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez and Ian Poulter, who required treatment for back spasms during his round before finishing birdie-birdie-eagle.
"Last Saturday was tough in the wind and rain," said Poulter of the conditions in the Scottish Open, ”and I started to get back spasms there.
"I've been having some treatment over the past few days, acupuncture and everything I can, to try and settle them down, but they weren't going away today. It was just getting worse."
A double-bogey 6 left Patrick Reed having to settle for a 70, one less than Richie Ramsay, who was next best among the eight Scots in the field, while Stephen Gallacher and David Law both signed for par-72s.
It was an up and down day for Bob MacIntyre in his 73; Marc Warren and David Drysdale both had 74s and Scott Jamieson carded a 75.
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