Inverness - Ernie Els will likely head into
his Open Championship title defence on the back of a missed cut after another
frustrating round at the Scottish Open left him 10 shots off early second-round
leader Chris Doak on Friday.
With the Castle Stuart links course there
for the taking on another glorious day in the Highlands, Els shot a 2-under 70
to follow his level-par first round.
"I had no idea on these greens - I'm
glad I'm leaving," Els said. "I just didn't quite get the run of the
The last Scot to win his home event was
Colin Montgomerie in 1999 - but Doak has a chance to end that barren run after
shooting a second straight 66 to move to 12 under. Peter Uihlein is a shot
adrift in second place after recovering from an early double bogey to shoot a
Overnight leader John Parry (8 under) was
among the afternoon starters, along with eighth-ranked Phil Mickelson (6
Els was a late entrant into the tournament
as he sought some links practice ahead of Muirfield - where he won the Open
Championship in 2002 and where he will defend the title captured last year at
Off the tee, Els has played solidly this
week but his game has floundered on the greens and his approach shots haven't
been up to his usual standard. He doesn't, however, see this as a problem ahead
of next week and his shot at a third claret jug.
"These courses are so different -
Muirfield is a lot more traditional links," Els said. "I got a lot of
awkward bounces this week but I feel I'm swinging well, striking the ball well.
"I think my game is where I want
Midway through the second round, the
projected cut was 4 under, leaving Els to accept he would be spending the
weekend with his family rather than at Castle Stuart.
Doak, who wears a flat cap in honour of his
idol Ben Hogan, thrilled the locals on a sunny, calm morning by making three birdies
in the first six holes and then adding two more as well as an eagle 3 at No 12
to finish a stroke clear of Uihlein.
The 35-year-old Doak has flitted between
the European Tour and second-tier Challenge Tour and is currently ranked No
341, but his resume is littered with triumphs on the Highlands links in his
younger days. And he gained confidence by qualifying for last month's US Open.
"That experience all in all was great
and spurs you on to get back there," said Doak, one of 19 Scots in the
Phil Mickelson led the US charge on the
opening day - the four-time major was an afternoon starter and heads out on 6
under - but it was taken up 24 hours later by Uihlein, who is acting as
something of a trailblazer for Americans by playing in Europe.
With his European Tour card secured after a
win in Portugal in May, the softly spoken 23-year-old is playing without
pressure and he found his putting range on his second nine after making 7 at No
12 - his third hole. He made eight birdies in all.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden is a shot further
back on 10 under after a superb 64 - equalling the best round of the week -
while Francesco Molinari was alone in the clubhouse on 8 under as the Italian
looks to make up for losing in a playoff to Jeev Milkha Singh last year.
"I didn't feel like I was playing
fantastic, so it was a bit of weird one to shoot 64," said Stenson, who is
ranked No 32 after being as low as No 230 last year.