NORTH BERWICK – Cameron Tringale finally saw The Renaissance Club in windy weather and held his own Friday to stay three shots ahead in the Scottish Open as he tries to win for the first time in his 13th year on the PGA Tour.
Tringale stayed on track after making four straight bogeys around the turn and finished with three pars for a 2-over 72. He had a three-shot lead over Gary Woodland (72) and Doug Ghim, whose 69 raised hopes he could earn one of three spots available for the British Open.
The Scottish Open is the first time the PGA Tour is co-sanctioning a European tour event, and it led to the strongest field in tournament history, featuring 14 of the top 15 players in the world ranking. Tringale won't have to contend with half of them.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the world's No. 1 player, was among seven of those players who can get an early start on the Old Course at St. Andrews. They all missed the cut.
Most of them got caught on the bad end of the draw. There was only a wee breeze Thursday morning when Tringale opened with a 61 and Woodland shot 64. By the afternoon, the wind was gusting to 30 mph, and the difference was just over three shots.
Friday gave a steady dose of strong wind, typical for these parts and still playable considering the design of the links-like course that allows for the ball to be played along the ground.
Scheffler (72) was on the good side of the draw and got a taste of quirky bounces, finding pot bunkers and other trouble that kept him from making up ground. PGA champion Justin Thomas had a 77 and missed the cut by seven shots. He got the bad end of the draw.
Xander Schauffele and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick also got the bad end but made it through just fine. Schauffele started his day with a big wind at his back, 225 yards to the pin and an 8-iron in his hand. He was trying to figure out how short to land it, and he judged it well. It rolled out to 15 feet for an eagle, and while the round wasn't flawless, his 65 was the best of the day.
Coming off a win at the Travelers Championship, the Olympic golf medalist was in a tie for fourth, three shots behind.
Fitzpatrick was even stronger. He was 6 under for the day without a bogey on his card until dropping shots on each of the last two holes. His 66 also left him three back.
The difference in rounds?
“Massive,” Fitzpatrick said, knowing full well the scoring average for the Thursday afternoon wave was 3.2 strokes higher. “That's obviously a large amount and to be honest, I feel like the wind sort of got calm as we started this morning. I think it’s safe to say we got the worst half of the draw.”
Also three shots behind were Kurt Kitayama (71) and Jordan Smith, whose 69 featured an ace that made him and his caddie happy. Smith hit 6-iron from 186 yards that rolled into the cup on the par-3 17th. Title sponsor Genesis awarded him an electrified GV70 SUV, while caddie Sam Matton received an all-electric GV60.
The only problem is figuring how to get them home because both have cars this week. That was the least of their worries. Still to come is a weekend of more wind and a dozen players separated by five shots.
Tringale took advantage of downwind holes for birdies, and then started giving them back starting on the par-5 16th through the first hole. He had to make a 5-foot par putt on No. 2 to end the nasty streak and held on from there. The wind's effect was just as difficult on the greens as from the tees or fairways.
“It's so tough to judge how much the wind is going to hurt, and then you get a putt that’s where the wind is going sideways," Tringale said. “It might be a ball, two, a cup, even as close as 7, 8 feet. It's really tricky.”
Woodland referred to it as a mental grind, especially as the temperatures dropped late in the day. Even so, he is excited to be within range of the lead and playing well, which he attributes to putting swing coach Butch Harmon back on the payroll.
Harmon is retired from full-time work, which involves traveling, and Woodland was bouncing around to various instructors. He finally had enough and went out to Las Vegas after the Memorial. He saw differences in his swing now from when he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach three years ago, and the words from Harmon were both valuable and unprintable.
“I needed it,” Woodland said. “He gets me in the right frame of mind.”
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