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Weather or not: Tee times dictate scoring Thursday in Scotland

3 Min Read


    Written by Sean Martin

    Will Zalatoris' ball comes to rest on Matt Fitzpatrick's poker chip

    NORTH BERWICK, Scotland – Some players’ tee shots struggled to reach the fairway. Long-irons and woods were needed to get within shouting distance of the green … on par-4s. The most recent major champion watched an approach shot sail on the wind and land on the wrong green.

    After a morning that was docile enough to have one player dreaming of a sub-60 round, the afternoon of the Genesis Scottish Open was a struggle as the winds gusted off the Firth of Forth.

    Collin Morikawa didn’t hesitate when asked about the wildest shot he saw. It wasn’t one he hit and it barely got airborne, but it came to rest in a most unlikely spot. Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris may have been separated by just a single shot in last month’s U.S. Open but their balls on the par-5 16th on Thursday were separated by the most miniscule of margins.

    Zalatoris’ chip on rolled across the green before hitting the hole. It slowed down until coming to rest atop the poker chip that Fitzpatrick uses to mark his ball. It was odd enough of an occurrence that Morikawa’s caddie, J.J. Jakovac, got down on one knee to snap a photo with his phone.

    In the morning, Cameron Tringale parred his final three holes for a 9-under 61 that gave him a three-shot lead. With the winds relatively manageable, Morikawa and Jakovac decided to leave the 5-wood in the bag instead of the lower-flying option of a 2-iron.

    “The 2-iron would have come in handy on the back nine,” Morikawa said with a smile. The Renaissance Club’s second half offers the best vistas of the Firth of Forth but that beauty also makes it brawny, leaving it more exposed to the high winds that are a trademark of golf in the game’s birthplace.

    This is the fourth edition of the Genesis Scottish Open played at The Renaissance Club. The first three were defined by benign conditions and low scores. The course fought back Thursday afternoon.

    A 66 from Kurt Kitayama was the best round from the afternoon wave by two shots. Only six players who teed off in the latter half of the draw shot under par, and only two shot lower than 69. Thirty-two players were in the red in the morning. The late starters’ scoring average of 73.5 was more than three strokes higher than the scoring average for the morning wave.

    Rickie Fowler, the 2015 Scottish Open champion, was among those who shot 69 in the afternoon. His 6-iron on the 147-yard, par-3 14th landed 20 yards short of his target. He needed a driver, 2-iron and 6-iron to reach the green on the par-5 16th, where many players struggled to reach the fairway. A driver and a 2-iron left him 30 yards short of the green on the par-4 finishing hole.

    The group of Fitzpatrick, Morikawa and Zalatoris represented the reigning champions of the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and the player who may be the TOUR’s best when conditions get tough. They all shot 71 on Thursday afternoon.

    “It was just knowing that you have to hit a great shot to hit it to 40 feet,” said Morikawa. Zalatoris, who ranks 16th on TOUR in driving distance, hit three 3-irons into par-4s, as well as a 3-wood.

    Fitzpatrick watched his tee shot on the par-3 12th catch a gust and sail into the middle of the adjoining 14th green. He took a drop off the putting surface, hit a 40-yard pitch over that green and an ancient wall to within 10 feet of the hole. He made the putt to save par.

    Justin Thomas shot 73, as did Hideki Matsuyama. Xander Schauffele shot 72.

    The rain that fell Wednesday made things even more difficult, making the course play longer and limiting players’ ability to run the ball along the ground. Winds of 15-20 mph are expected Friday, as well.

    “That’s links golf,” Zalatoris said. It is indeed.

    Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.