DAVID DRYSDALE set out in today’s third round of the £3.6 million BMW PGA Championship determined not to take stage fright in the European Tour’s flagship event.
The former Dunbar trainee faced the biggest test of his career after finding himself sharing second spot at the halfway stage with world No.2 and defending Wentworth champion Luke Donald.
The pair trailed leader James Morrison by four shots in the race for a £600,000 top prize and, though all eyes were set to be on Donald in the chasing pack, Drysdale was also aiming to maintain his challenge.
It wasn’t the first time the Scot had put himself in contention at the halfway stage in his European Tour career but he’s still waiting to win and outside of the majors this event is one of the biggest in the game.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” said the 37-year-old from Cockburnspath after following his spectacular opening 66 with a steady 70 for an eight-under total of 136.
“I have been playing decent golf this season so (in the next two rounds) it’s just a case of trying to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Yesterday, Drysdale reckoned he’d “struggled a bit” so was delighted with an effort that kept his name near the top of the leaderboard, having started out sharing top spot with Irishman Peter Lawrie.
He opened with a bogey-5 but then bagged four birdies over the next 11 holes and, at nine-under for the tournament, he led on his own at one point.
At the 12th Drysdale nearly put his second shot out of bounds, as Rory McIlroy had done the day before, but made the most of his break by holing from 40 feet for a birdie-4.
As the wind picked up for the first time this week at the tree-lined Surrey course, he bogeyed both the 13th and 16th just as local hero Morrison was really starting to get into gear on his way to a 64.
“I probably couldn’t have shot any lower than 70 today,” he added.
“They say it’s tough to follow a low round with another low one, but I’m sure there are plenty guys who do.
“I hit a few loose shots, but I’m definitely in a good position.”
For the second day running, the Scot birdied the par-5 18th. On this occasion, though, his ball didn’t jump out of the stream that snakes its way around the front and side of the green.
“I saw the shot (from the opening round) at the 18th on Sky last night,” he said. “I thought the ball had gone into the middle of the water, but it was just in the side. It was amazing, unbelieveable.”
Fourth in this event two years ago, Stephen Gallacher’s return to action following a recent illness ended prematurely as he missed the cut.
Left with little room for error after an opening 72, the Bathgate man got off to the worst possible start by dropping a shot at the first. And, when he followed a second bogey of the day at the sixth with a double-bogey 6 at the ninth to be out in 39, the writing was on the wall.
He then ran up a triple-bogey at the 17th and eventually signed for an 80 to finish on 152, heading off to re-group before playing in the US Open qualifying at Walton Heath on Monday.
There was also an early exit for Wentworth debutant David Patrick after a second-round 79 left him well down the field on 156. On a day when he found birdies hard to come by – he managed just one at the fourth – the Mortonhall man had two double-bogeys in his final three holes.
After his taste of the big time, it’s back to the bread and butter stuff for Patrick tomorrow, when he’s due to be in action at Bishopbriggs in a Tartan Tour Pro-Am.