Inspired by watching the putting technique of Australian Jason Day, Scotland’s Chris Doak produced a brilliant course record 63 at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Resort to take control of the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
The 33 year old, a member of the recently formed Team Scottish Hydro, has been playing beautifully for the past few weeks but had been hampered by putting woes until he decided to take a leaf out of Day’s book, having watched the Aussie putt his way to second place behind Rory McIlroy in last week’s US Open Championship at Congressional.
His new technique, allied to his outstanding display of ball-striking, ensured Doak would charge to the top of the leaderboard with an eight under par 63 at Spey Valley – two strokes better than Swedish rookie Jesper Kennegard, and three clear of South African youngster Allan Versfield with a further eight players tied on four under par.
Doak is no stranger to the Spey Valley Golf Course having won the Northern Open, one of the Tartan Tour’s most prestigious events, here in 2008.
“I won the Northern Open here in 2008 so I do love the course, it’s a great course,” said Doak.
“My game has been in great shape and it’s great to be playing at home this week. I think that’s helped. I had been struggling with the putting quite a lot but I made a change in my routine today and it seems to have worked.
“I was getting the pace first and then having a quick look at the line and getting putter behind the ball and just letting it go. I got the idea from watching Jason Day at the US Open. I was struggling with the line but that seems to be helping.”
Kennegard, meanwhile, could not have got his professional career off to a much better start than his six under par 65 effort. The Swede was playing his first round as a professional at Spey Valley, having recently graduated from Arizona State University – the same College that produced Phuil Mickelson and Paul Casey – in America.
“It is a very good start, especially as I was one over after the first hole, but I managed to get things going and made seven birdies after that so it was a very nice way to start the tournament.
“I have been a professional for a week and this is my first tournament as a professional so I have to be pretty pleased with that. I was at College in Arizona State and had four great years there. I was always going to turn professional straight after college and I also knew that I would be able to get some invitations on the Challenge Tour so I kind of knew what I was going to do as soon as I graduated.
“Obviously I know what the Challenge Tour is but you have to make your own judgements once you get here. The set-up here is good and the golf course is very good. It is not quite the weather I became accustomed to in Arizona but we get some pretty bad weather in Sweden so that shouldn’t be a problem.
“I think the Challenge Tour is a great place for me to start. You look a the guys who have come through it recently, guys like Kaymer, Quiros, Molinari - they have all come through the Challenge Tour so I think it’s a good path to try and follow.”
Versfield is another man making his Challenge Tour debut this week and the young South African showed many signs of the classy game that has seen him perform well on his native Sunshine Tour of late.
His five under 66 saw him sneak one stroke clear of the eight men tied on four under that includes home players Greig Hutcheon and Elliott Saltman but Doak’s excellent performance put his fellow countrymen, and indeed the rest of the field, in the shade.