Weather wreaks havoc in Scottish Open but Tommy Fleetwood 'loved every minute of it'
Robert Rock leads at The Renaissance Club after rain-ravaged third round
It's never a good sign when you drive into the Gullane area on a Saturday morning and see the golf courses almost deserted. It takes really ugly weather to stop the lucky people in that part of the world enjoying their favourite pastime and, boy, was it ugly for the third round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.
In short, rain wreaked havoc in the $7 million Rolex Series event during more than 12 hours of play on the East Lothian coast.
It was astonishing, really, that the Tom Doak-designed course held up until the middle of the afternoon before puddles started appearing, with the 18th fairway under enough water by the time play finished in near darkness at just after 6pm that you half expected Noah to come sailing up it in his Ark.
Most players hated their day, but not everyone. "I loved every minute of it,'' declared Tommy Fleetwood, who wasn’t even wearing waterproofs. "It's golf isn't it? Let's face it, with the money we play for these days it does not do any harm does it? It's fine. I'll play in it every day."
It helped, of course, that the Englishman, who has a great record on Scottish soil, had played well. He picked up two shots in the last five holes to card a two-under 69. That moved him to seven-under, sitting joint-second just two shots off the lead, held by compatriot Robert Rock.
"The prize-money that we play for, going out in a bit of bad weather is fine,” added Fleetwood, the top-ranked player in the field. “There’s nothing about today that got me and Finno [Ian Finnis, his caddie] down. It almost got so bad that we were laughing about it towards the end."
Despite being out in front, Rock wasn't laughing. Upset about something - it was perhaps a ruling that went against him at the tenth - the 43-year-old declined the opportunity to talk about his 72. That was a pity as it had been a fine effort, setting up a chance of his first victory since the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Alongside Fleetwood are Ian Poulter (73), Swede Marcus Kinhult (71) and Australian Wade Ormsby (73). After starting the day in a tie for 53rd, Scottish No 1 Bob MacIntyre leapt into a tie for tenth on the back of 68 a before the really bad stuff started.
"I thought when I played in Muirfield when Ernie [Els] won, that was some of the worst conditions I've ever seen," said Poulter of the 2002 Open Championship next door to here. "But that's as tough a day as I've seen on a golf course in 21 years."
Bidding for a first win on Scottish soil, the Ryder Cup talisman was out in two-under before dropping four shots coming home as he went through five gloves and six towels. Even his umbrella had lost its fight by the finish. "It was a shame towards the end it as it just got unmanageable, really," he added.
Poulter may have ruffled some feathers in this neck of the woods when he upset a marshal during the 2017 event at Gullane, but fair play to him for showing a touch of class on this occasion.
"It's really easy to sit here and just moan and say the golf course got unplayable, right," he said. "I'm not going to do that. It was a massive mental challenge, and we needed all of the greenkeepers, who were squeegeeing hard the last few holes, to get us to close of play today.
"We're in a lucky position to be here playing this Aberdeen Standard Scottish Open for a lot of money. A lot of guys have put a lot of hard work in to get us here. So we just need to dry off and go again tomorrow."
With 30 players within six shots of the lead, MacIntyre is tucked in very nicely indeed after seeing his name continuing to climb during the afternoon."We knew it was going to come in, we just didn't know how bad it was going to be," he said of the weather.
Having recovered brilliantly from an opening 74, the 24-year-old from Oban is now in a position to challenge for his breakthrough win. "My game has been good and I'm finally starting to see improvement in the putting," he added. "Overall, I'm happy how I'm playing."
Grant Forrest, who covered the back nine in one-under later in the day for a battling 72, is also on four-under, as is Marc Warren, with Jamieson and Connor Syme both on three-under.
Craig Lee, the leading Scot at the start of the day after excelling in the first two rounds in his first European Tour event in just under three years, slipped to one-under alongside Ewen Ferguson, with Calum Hill on one-over.
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