Too little, too late. That’s how Grant Forrest will look back on his second appearance in the Open Championship after missing the cut at Carnoustie.
The Lothians star had left himself with a mountain to climb in his bid to make it to the weekend in the Claret Jug event on the Angus coast.
That got even bigger when he then started his second round in the company of 1996 champion Tom Lehman and South African Dylan Frittelli with a double-bogey 6. It wasn’t until after making his first birdie in two days at the seventh that Forrest seemed to loosen up and he duly played his final 12 holes in two-under-par.
“I played some better stuff on the back nine after another poor start so I’ll take the positives,” said the 25-year-old after signing for a two-over 73 and an 11-over total.
“Even yesterday, I hit a lot of good golf shots but got punished when I made mistakes.
“The course had softened up a bit in the rain so it was much easier to get closer to pins and control the ball. I wasn’t expecting too much after nine over yesterday.”
Still an amateur at the time, the Craigielaw player also made an early exit at Muirfield in 2013 – so he is determined to make it third-time lucky in golf’s oldest major.
“Definitely,” he said of wanting to be back playing in the event. “The whole experience of playing The Open makes you want to come back for more, regardless of how you do. I would love to have another crack at it.”
He’ll now switch his attention back to trying to secure a step up to the European Tour next season off the Challenge Tour. After a strong opening half of the season, he’s ninth in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings, with the top 15 in that securing cards for the top circuit.
“It’s more great experience,” he said. “I’m obviously disappointed to throw myself out after the first round because I’d been playing well. Now I’ll move forward.
“If it had happened that I had a great tournament then it might have been the biggest week of the year but realistically, a top-15 on the Challenge Tour is still the focus. I’m sitting ninth.
“There is a lot of golf to be played and this was one week in a long season. It’s a similar situation to Bradley Neil last year and he got his Tour card. Hopefully I can do the same.
“I have 11 or 12 tournaments left. I’m playing Austria next week and then a week off. I’m confident I can get the job done. I know what I am capable of.”
Amateur Sam Locke is the only Scot left standing after Russell Knox, Sandy Lyle and Scott Jamieson joined Forrest in missing the cut, which fell at three-over.
Stonehaven star Locke, who won the final qualifier at The Renaissance Club to secure his place in the field, has already secured the prize as leading amateur – the first Scot to win the Silver Medal since Lloyd Saltman at St Andrews in 2005.
Meanwhile, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy are leading a European assault on the leaderboard in the season’s third major as they bid to loosen a US stranglehold on the game’s four major titles.
All four of those prizes are currently in the hands of Americans, but Fleetwood, last year’s Race to Dubai winner, and four-time major champion McIlroy are gunning for glory this weekend.
Fleetwood, who carded a best-of-the-day 65, two shots outside the course record he set in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship, is one off the lead, held by American duo Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.
McIlroy, who finished as the leading amateur here in 2007, is a shot further back after he carded a second consecutive 69.
Fleetwood, who produced an impressive bogey-free effort in miserable wet morning conditions, is bidding to go one better here than his second-place finish in last month’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
“I can’t lie about it. If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be The Open,” said the 27-year-old Englishman. McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Royal Birkdale, was forced to abandon his aggressive strategy from the first day due to the change in weather conditions. But the 28-year-old was equally pleased with how he performed playing a bit more conservatively. “I got a few good up-and-downs when I needed to and I’m in a great position going into the third day,” he said.
Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, is lurking ominously just three off the lead, as is 2015 Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler, while three-time winner Tiger Woods reckons he can make up a six-shot deficit over the final two days.
Justin Rose, the world No.3, crept into the weekend after making his only birdie of the day at the last, but a host of big names to miss the cut included Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, the two top-ranked players.
Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, first and second here in 2007, also crashed out.