Golf: Saltman delivers a flock of birdies at Gleneagles

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ARCHERFIELD ace Lloyd Saltman reeled off five birdies in a row to guarantee a slice of the weekend action in the 
£1.4 million Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

The 26-year-old, who had opened with a 77 on the PGA Centenary Course, was heading for an early exit when he was still five-over for the tournament after seven holes in his second round.

But a stunning burst from the 18th - his eighth - turned his day around as he went on to sign for a five-under 67 in Perthshire.

“I was pleased with that,” beamed Saltman, pictured, afterwards. “I got off to a poor start yesterday, though I didn’t actually hit the ball too badly.

“I stayed patient at the start and today and was rewarded for that as I made five the birdies in a row from the 18th.”

Bogeys at the fifth – his 13th – and 17th undid some of that good work but he dug deep to bag two late birdies.

“I was up against it again after those dropped shots holed great putts, both 20 footers, at the eighth and ninth,” he added.

Saltman only got into the event on Tuesday, having feared he’d be sitting out the event after failing to secure a sponsor’s invitation.

“We put in for one but, unfortunately, I didn’t get one and it looked as though I wouldn’t be playing here,” said the former Walker Cup player.

“On Tuesday morning I was still third reserve so to get in was amazing. Due to it being long this golf course should suit my game and it was nice to go out today and hole some putts, which I haven’t done here in previous years.”

A new Titleist driver has worked well, allowing the big-hitter to add even more distance to his game.

“I was fitted with it this week and it is really shifting,” he reported. “It’s going further and straighter than my old one. I was absolutely caning it out there, hitting some really big ones. That helped in those wet conditions.”

After losing his full European Tour card at the end of last season, Saltman has been limited to the odd appearance on the main circuit this year.

His best finish was a share of 19th in the Sicilian Open and he’s lying down in 197th in the Race to Dubai.

“I was looking to get off to a quick start this year but didn’t play good enough so had to go back to the Challenge Tour,” he admitted. “It’s been a bit slow there but there’s been a hint of some good stuff recently and that round was certainly pleasing.”

Barring a superb finish this weekend, Saltman is looking forward to having next week off after playing six events on the trot.

“I’ve then got Russia and Kazakhstan – two courses that suit my game,” he said of a return to Challenge Tour commitments.

“I’ve played well in both of them before and I’ll be looking to capitalise on that to put myself in a position to get a card for next year that way.

“I’ve entered the Tour School as well and obviously PGA Catalunya is a place that has good memories for me (having earned his card there along with big brother Elliot two years ago).”

Looking forward to his final two rounds at Gleneagles, he added: “I’ve got to take confidence from today. I was five-over for the tournament playing the 18th and have come back in five-under with two bogeys.”