So far, really good. That was the verdict from the man running the Scottish Open after the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event reached the halfway stage on its first visit to Gullane.
More than 28,000 spectators witnessed the opening two rounds in East Lothian, where little-known Englishman Daniel Brooks had a posse of top players breathing down his neck heading into today’s third circuit.
The composite Championship Course being used for the £3.25 million event has proved a huge hit with the players, notably American stars like Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar Jimmy Walker and Ryan Palmer.
And, with the paying public also enjoying their first visit to the venue for a European Tour event, championship director Peter Adams said he couldn’t be happier.
“So far, really good,” he told the Evening News. “We are not getting complacent as we still have two days to go. But all the feedback we’ve had – from TV, spectators, sponsors and players – has been very positive.”
Thursday’s attendance of 13,547 was more than 2000 up on the corresponding figure at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago.
Yesterday’s figure of 14,697 was down on last year, but Adams added: “It has been another good day. I think we are on course for what I would call a good, solid attendance, but we will have to wait and see.”
Mother Nature has been kind so far, with the second round starting in drizzle showers rather than a spell of prolonged rain that had been predicted.
“I think we probably got away with it this morning because the forecast was for heavy rain,” admitted Adams. “It was actually not too bad and it was fantastic in the afternoon.”
Brooks, a 28-year-old from Basildon in Essex, followed his opening 64 with a 65 to be the surprise leader heading into the weekend.
However, Justin Rose, the defending champion, is lurking ominously, three shots back, as are the aforementioned Palmer and Irish duo Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell.
“The feedback we are getting from the players is that they are really enjoying it,” revealed Adams, who has been associated with the event since its days at Loch Lomond.
“It’s a good links experience and they think the greens are putting true, which is obviously very important to them.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been anything like a strong test yet but if the wind gets up over the weekend it will make them think a bit more.”
Only time will tell if the event will be back at Gullane as it is heading back to Castle Stuart near Inverness next year.
But, according to Adams, there has been nothing whatsoever to prevent that from happening if the tournament’s three partners wanted to bring it back to this venue.
“It’s been a really good team effort,” he said. “The club have been great. The local council have been great. With us, they’ve met the challenges that Gullane presents.
“The police and all the other agencies have come together and that combination is what makes it work.”
After his 66, Lowry revealed how his Capital connection was playing a huge part in him having emerged as one of Europe’s top players over the past year or so.
The Dublin-based star is coached by Neil Manchip, who cut his golfing teeth at Turnhouse and won the Irish PGA Championship before becoming the Irish national coach.
“My first boys’ coaching session with the Golfing Union of Ireland was the same day that Neil started,” he said of the one-time Turnhouse member who beat a field that included Darren Clarke to win the 2007 Irish PGA Championship before opting to concentrate on coaching.
“Neil is a very close friend of mine,” added Lowry. “He’s not just my coach; he’s the first person I would go to if I was ever struggling or in trouble because I can tell him anything. He is a great influence on me and has been for a number of years. It’s great to have someone like that around you.”
Brooks has missed 30 cuts since winning the Madeira Islands Open last May, but was boosted by a 66 as he made it to the weekend in France last week.
“To miss that many cuts is hard,” admitted the world No. 528. “It does get you down. But it only takes one good week out here and hopefully that’s what I’m about to have.”
Cockburnspath’s David Drysdale was among six Scots to make the cut following a second-round 65, but Stephen Gallacher and Gareth Wright both missed out by a shot.
Tantallon amateur Calum Hill also made an early exit.