AAM Scottish Open Day 3 Wrap Up
With the relative absence of tangible wind and the wet Scottish summer resulting in the immaculate Gullane Golf Club playing much softer than would have been expected, the links had been at the mercy of the assembled players of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Low scoring ruled in the early stages, with surprise leader Daniel Brooks sitting three shots clear of the field after two rounds on 11-under.
However, on Saturday, the questions asked were a little more testing, with a noticeable breeze and cool temperatures ensuring for more challenging scoring conditions. Grit and determination would be a required attribute in the third round, as the previously benign links began to show its teeth.
No player exuded greater mental strength than the 28-year-old Brooks, who overcame a crushing start to reclaim his position at the summit of the leaderboard. A battling third round of 69 places the Basildon-native one shot ahead of the experienced Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin, with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Joost Luiten, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Kuchar all starting within striking distance on Sunday.
Rounds of 64 and 65 positioned the relatively unheralded Brooks clear at the top on Friday, but having slept on the lead of such a prestigious event, few would have been shocked to witness the Englishman falter in the early stages, just as Thursday’s leader Thorbjorn Olesen had done. Particularly with conditions as they were.
Those prophesies of doom looked to have been proven accurate, with a double bogey start from Brooks immediately extinguishing his advantage over the chasing pack. Many (more experienced) players in that position would have been engulfed in the maelstrom of anxiety, pressure, and the challenging environment, but the world number 528th exuded an admirable strength of character to more than salvage his position.
Following that harmful blemish on the opening hole (courtesy of an errant drive), Brooks holed a crucial putt for par on the second to help settle the nerves. Scrambling – as it so often is on an uncooperative links day - would be the key for the Essex player, as it held his score together throughout the remaining 17 holes of what was an extremely admirable round when battling a slight wrist twinge.
Many of those saves would have felt like birdies, but there were also some genuine ones on the card. He would pick up shots on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes, with those three birdies completing a front-nine of 34, which would have seemed unfathomable after what had transpired at the first hurdle.
As the conditions worsened on the back-nine, Brooks’ proficiency on the greens would continue to hold him in good stead, before a birdie on the par five 16th edged himself clear of the pack for the first time since the opening hole. Two closing pars would complete a third round that was truly an achievement.
It was extremely impressive to witness, but when you delve deeper into the recent career of Brooks, such a redoubtable mentality isn’t something that should have been unexpected. Having endured a crushing period of 13 consecutive missed cuts this season, before a comparative resurgence in France, just being the 36-hole leader at the Scottish Open was already credit to a notable resilience.
His nearest challenger is the 41-year-old from Lyon, Jacquelin, is another player who found some semblance of form at Le Golf National, having previously endued a frustrating season of missed cuts and uneventful weekends. After shooting a stunning bogey-free 64, the four-time winner on the European Tour is looking forward to enjoying the experience of once again being in contention.
“I'm going to try to enjoy every shot, even if I miss the shots. It's easy to say but that's the key is to have fun. As I say, the last few months were not fun at all and today I enjoyed it, so that's the key,” said the veteran who recently celebrated making his 500th appearance on the tour.
Beyond the Frenchman, winner of the Players Championship, Rickie Fowler has banished the memories an horrific two days at Chambers Bay in the U.S. Open to once again contend on a traditional links course. The 26-year-old American embraces the challenge of seaside golf, and will be hoping the form of this week carries into the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews. However, first, there is a Scottish Open to win.
“I think one of the goals coming in was to get ready for next week, but to put myself in contention, so the juices are ready for next week, as well. We are right there, exactly where we want to be. So go out tomorrow, get off to a good, solid start, stick to the same game plan and keep playing well and see if we can bring it home,” said the likeable Californian.
Ultimately, the story of Saturday was Daniel Brooks. The professional game can be a weekly circuit of misery for those who are out of form. However, all of that angst can be overcome and rectified in a single week.
A victory would be life changing, with his only previous win coming at last year’s rain shortened Madeira Islands Open. A triumph at Gullane would secure his future on tour and open doors that would have otherwise been firmly locked. Not least a place in next week’s championship at the Home of Golf.
For the young man, the approach to Sunday will be straightforward. “(I’ll) try not to think about it really. Just going to go out there and just play 18 holes and see what happens.”
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