Scottish Open: Home duo rise and shine
Scott Jamieson and Craig Lee make most of the weather break but Lee Westwood leads
Home duo Scott Jamieson and Craig Lee made the most of Mother Nature shining on them to produce promising starts in the $7 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in East Lothian.
The morning wave, which included Lothians star Stephen Gallacher and Edinburgh-based Richie Ramsay, had to battle wind, rain and cold conditions at The Renaissance Club before the afternoon starters got it easy as the weather improved dramatically.
Taking full advantage of that break, Lee Westwood led the way as he carded a brilliant nine-under-par 62 to lead by a shot from Swede Alexander Bjork and Dutchman Joost Luiten. But the Saltire is also prominent on the leaderboard in the Rolex Series event after Jamieson opened with a 64 and Lee then came in late in the day with a 65.
Jamieson, who shot the same score in the second round last year, when he finished as joint-top Scot just outside the top 20, got his engine warmed up with three birdies in a row from the second before picking up four in five holes in another productive burst on the back nine.
“I don’t know just how bad it was in the morning,” admitted the Florida-based Scot. “I was having my cornflakes and it was raining outside. That’s all I knew. But scoring says level par was a good score in the morning, whereas if you shot level par in the afternoon, you were getting left behind.”
Referring to the weather conditions, he added: “It was eerily quiet. There was not even any air movement.
“There was so little wind that, if you were playing well, you were going to have lots of chances. You still have
to take them. It doesn’t
mean automatic chances, but I made some and took some.”
It was a brilliant return to European Tour action for Lee, who is playing in his first event on the circuit since calling time on his career as a touring pro at the end of the 2017 campaign.
“That was surprising,” admitted the 43-year-old, smiling, of an effort that was transformed by a burst of four birdies in a row and five in six holes on his back nine at The Renaissance Club. “The target was to poddle along and not turn up tomorrow having to shoot five-under to make the cut.
“I hit a couple of ropey drives to begin with and I was thinking, ‘I could be in trouble’, but then made a couple of nice pars then got on a nice birdie run and it just kept snowballing. It was just fun.”
Lee, who lost to Thomas Bjorn in a play-off in the 2013 Omega European Masters in Switzerland, had been worried that a course playing at just under 7,300 yards would be too long for him on his return to the top table.
“I played it on Monday right off the back tips, playing the front nine, and I was a bit concerned as we went through quite a few golf balls,” he added. “It wasn’t the reason we came in after nine holes, but it was certainly getting close to it (laughing). I just walked the back nine and I was concerned how tough it was going to be.
“But the weather worked out tremendous for us today – we could not have got a better draw as it wash flat calm the whole way round and the greens were a wee bit more receptive after the rain overnight and then this morning.”
Can he keep it up? “Every day is like a lottery for me in terms of what body I wake up with,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t leave much out there today. I’ll have a hot bath tonight and see what body I wake up with tomorrow.”
Westwood, who frequently played and practised at this venue when he lived in Edinburgh for a spell, set up his brilliant start by making two eagles in the first seven holes.
“I know the course well,” said the 1998 winner at Loch Lomond. “If I had a full day to practise (living in Edinburgh), I would come out here and hit balls for two or three hours, playing nine holes.
“Myself and Sam (his son and also caddie this week) came up and played it [pre-US Open] with one eye on this week.
“I thought I could get a practice round done with nobody here, then not have to play – though I played 18 holes on Wednesday. I like the course and knowing it will help if conditions change, obviously.”