The morning starters enjoyed the best of the weather in the second round at Royal Portrush – and Russell Knox is hoping Mother Nature will deliver a repeat for the penultimate circuit.
Despite being on the worst side of the draw, having had to contend with wind and showers on Thursday then persistent rain on Friday afternoon, the Scottish No.1 safely made the cut in the season’s final major along with Bob MacIntyre.
Knox signed for three birdies as he added a 71 to his opening 70 to sit tied for 32nd on one-under, a shot behind rookie MacIntyre, who sits joint-25th on his debut in the tournament.
“I’m happy to be comfortably in for the weekend,” said Knox, having achieved the feat for the second time in five appearances. “I’m playing good, swinging really well.
“I haven’t exceeded expectations because I know how good a player I can be. I just needed a mental reset earlier in the week. But I expected to play well and hopefully have a great weekend. I can have a go at it tomorrow morning.
“Absolutely, I have a chance. This morning the weather was amazing and the guys really tore it up. If I can have a morning like that and take advantage of it, I could be right up there for Sunday.
“It’s all there for me. For the first time in a long time I’m confident with my putting. I’m driving the ball straight. And my iron game is always there. It’s time to make it all come out.”
While delighted to make the cut in the Claret Jug joust at the first attempt, MacIntyre was frustrated by his performance on the greens as he made four bogeys and five birdies in the second circuit.
The 22-year-old from Oban had rolled in some long putts in the first round, but, on this occasion, he couldn’t convert a string of much shorter ones and was disappointed to have lost ground on the leaders when he was looking to kick on after a brilliant effort on day one.
“Missed a seven-footer on the last. Missed a three-and-a-half footer on 15. The game is there, just the putting is not. But I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully the putts drop. Keep patient.”
Connor Syme agonisingly missed out by a shot after a bogey at the last as he carded a 72 for a two-over total, with Paul Lawrie (72) and Sam Locke (77) also making early exits on five-over and 10-over respectively.
Twenty years after his win at Carnoustie, Lawrie admitted afterwards that his game is no longer up to playing at this level. “Little better than yesterday, although I was alright yesterday for 12 or 13 holes then had a poor finish, like I have been doing pretty much in every round since I came back from my lay-off (through a foot injury),” said the 50-year-old.
“I just get a bit fatigued and tired and hit some poor shots and can’t recover. I feel a little bit better every day but, phew, my game is just not at this level. Hopefully it will be this time next year but, at the minute, it’s a bit of a struggle.”
Asked if that was hard to take, Lawrie, who will now turn his attention to the Senior Open at Lytham next week, added: “Yeah, because I played in the Ryder Cup when I was 43 and I don’t feel that was that long ago. Then, all of a sudden through the injuries and surgery, I kind of feel uncompetitive at this level.
“The seniors is where it is for me now. I did think about not playing last week and this week because I don’t think my game is very good at the moment.”
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