Another day, another pummelling for The Renaissance. After this latest blitz of birdies on day two of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, you half expected organisers to put up barrage balloons in an attempt to deflect the fearsome fire power
Of course, for every player going on the offensive, there were those who couldn’t get out of the trenches. Scotland’s No.1 Russell Knox, for instance, departed early with a pair of one-under 70s which left him wheezing well adrift of those sprinting away ahead of him.
“When it’s a birdie feast and you’re not making them, you feel like you’re being lapped,” lamented Knox as he finished about a full calendar month behind the front-runners.
That pace-setting mark was set at a formidable 14-under, the lowest halfway total in relation to par in the history of the Scottish Open. The cut fell at a five-under, one shot shy of the lowest ever on the European Tour. You can’t dawdle this week.
It was Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger who brought the largely defenceless links to its knees with a fearsome bludgeoning that just about led to him being charged with assault and battery by the local constabulary.
His delightfully assembled 10-under 61, a course record, thrust him into a three-way tie at the top with Lee Slattery of England and South Africa’s Erik Van Rooyen on 128.
Calum Hill, meanwhile, took up the running as the leading Scot with a fine 64 which propelled the Kinross man up into the fringes of the top 10 on 10-under while Scott Jamieson birdied his last three holes in a 64 to jump to eight-under.
Hill, who highlighted his card with a curling birdie putt of some 20 feet on the 15th, came through the 36-hole qualifying event at nearby Longniddry last weekend and is certainly making the most of his chance.
The additional carrot on the stick being dangled in front of the 24-year-old is one of the Open Championship spots on offer for the leading three players in the top-10 come tomorrow who are not already in the Portrush major.
Hill, who played all four rounds of the US Open last year, returned to Scotland from a stint in America and made a swift impression on the European Challenge Tour in 2018 by winning the Northern Ireland Open in just his fifth start on the circuit.
Indeed, his experiences on the cut-throat second-tier tour have stood him in good stead this week as all and sundry continue to shoot the lights out.
“Just about every week on the Challenge Tour you have to get yourself to 20-under and you might have a chance [to win],” said Hill of that ultra-competitive and proven breeding ground. “Most of the time you’re having to keep driving on. There’s no letting off the gas. It’s really good for setting you up with the mentality of shooting really good scores.”
An outstanding bogey free 64 (-7) from @CalumHill_golf this afternoon @ScottishOpen for -10 total will be one shot outside top 10 going in to Saturday💥
What an effort in his first ever @EuropeanTour #RolexSeries event👏🏼👏🏼
— Bounce (@bouncespmgt) July 12, 2019
And as for that Open place?
“In an ideal world the best situation would be a spot for next week but I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing,” he said. “There’s no pressure.”
Wiesberger was beaten to last week’s Irish Open title by Jon Rahm’s surging 62 in the final round at
Lahinch but the 33-year-old mounted a rousing charge of his own yesterday to up the ante in his bid for a second European Tour win of the season.
Having started his round on the back nine, Wiesberger got himself to five-under through 10 holes before he unleashed the heavy artillery on the run-in and blasted five birdies in a row to finish.
“Obviously the rain has made everything softer and not quite as linksy as the course would normally be but you still have to hit the shots and you still need to hole the putts,” he said. “You have to take advantage when you can.”
Poor old Paul Lawrie, who was in Wiesberger’s group, posted a 69 to miss the cut but, at 50 and still trying to get back up to speed after surgery, his summing up was understandable.
“At this level I’m not sure I can compete week-in, week-out anymore,” said the Aberdonian, who is carving out a new chapter in his career on the Senior Tour.
Rory McIlroy kept plodding along with a second successive 67 to sit on eight-under with 36 holes to go.
“If someone had said to me that you are going to shoot four 67s, I’d have felt I might have had a chance but I might have a chance of a top 20,” he said with a smile as he peered at the leaderboard.
Oban’s Robert MacIntyre, playing alongside McIlroy, was left cursing “stupid mistakes” as he missed the cut by a shot on four-under after a 70. “My putting let me down and it came back to bite me,” he grumbled.