CATCHING up with his old mate and former US Open champion Graeme McDowell helped Edinburgh’s Craig Gordon get off to a promising start in the £50,000 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship.
The pair became friends when they played on the same golf team at the University of Alabama, and Gordon caddied for McDowell when he won the 2002 Scandinavian Masters in only his fourth start as a professional.
The 34-year-old, who played at Ratho Park as an amateur but is now attached to Edinburgh Golf Centre, was back in McDowell’s company as a caddie, this time for the Ulsterman’s brother Gary, in the recent Dunhill Links Championship. “I got a phone call from Graeme asking if I would like to do it and I’m glad I said ‘yes’ as it was great fun,” said Gordon, a former Scottish Mid-Amateur champion. “It was great to catch up with him and there’s no doubt that spending some time in Graeme’s company has probably rubbed off on me.
“He played with Simon Dyson, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and the focus these guys have got is frightening.”
Gordon kept his own focus pretty well, too, as he opened with a two-under-par 69 to sit one shot off the lead after day one in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event. “It was a nice surprise as I’ve been playing poorly to say the least,” added Gordon, who has managed just one pro-am success this year and is lying 32nd on the money list.
He wasn’t the only Lothians player in the field pleased with their start in the 72-hole event.
Marriott Dalmahoy’s Mark Kerr was sharing the lead after a 68 and the man who finished third 12 months ago has his sights set on doing even better this time around.
“I wasn’t disappointed at the time but, looking back, winning this event opens doors so that’s definitely the target this week,” said the 29-year-old.
Edinburgh-based West Lothian pro Alan Reid matched Gordon’s 69, while West Linton’s Gareth Wright, the runner-up last year after losing a play-off to Chris Doak, is also well-placed after an opening 71. However, he failed to birdie either the 14th and 18th and also missed from four feet for a birdie at the 17th. Duddingston duo James McGhee and Tom Buchanan shot 71 and 72, while a group on 73 included Dunbar’s Neil Fenwick and Ally MacKenzie, the former Liberton amateur who is now attached to The Renaissance.
David Patrick is still in with a chance of topping the Tartan Tour order of merit at the end of this event, but the former Mortonhall man has ground to make up on Hayston’s Stephen Gray after he opened with a 75. Both Gray and Braid Hills-attached Paul McKechnie signed for 72s.