Marc Farry reaped instant rewards from his decision to change putter as the Frenchman carded an opening round six under par 66 to share the lead with Anders Forsbrand in the SSE Scottish Senior Open at Fairmont St Andrews.
The 52 year old felt that his form with the putter had not reflected the rest of his game so far this season, particularly on his last trip to Scotland for The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Turnberry three weeks ago.
Although the two-time Senior Tour champion finished a respectable 35th over the Ailsa Course, his frustration on the greens prompted him to switch to the belly putter and five birdies on the front nine –including four in a row from the third hole - quickly vindicated the decision.
He picked up another birdie on the 15th hole before dropping his only shot of the on the 17th hole when he pulled his tee shot and had to hit his approach shot from the adjacent 16th fairway. But a closing birdie ensured the former BMW International Open winner finished on a high, just as Forsbrand did in his bogey-free 66.
Both players attributed their impressive starts to improvements with the putter, with Farry particularly pleased with his rapid change in fortune.
“I have really been putting badly this season and probably the worst was at Turnberry,” said Farry. “I played well there but couldn’t make putts – it was a joke.
“So I decided a week ago to try the belly putter from now on and it worked well today. I played very well the first 15 holes – I hit every green. I had a three putt on ten from nowhere and missed a three footer for birdie on nine so I went 30 on the front nine and could easily have been 29.
“Because of my size with the short putter I crouched too much and maybe with the belly putter I have a different vision with the line and I am standing a fraction taller.
“It helps. It’s not that easy for long putts but for short putts, inside 15ft it is a fraction easier. I just feel more confident. I’ve only been practising with it for a week so it has been pretty instant.
“I was so mad after Turnberry that I felt I deserved a little better than that, even though I finished 35th. My friend said why don’t you try this one and I had a few putts and decided to bring it here. I’m pretty happy – to shoot 66 at St Andrews, in the sunshine, is great.”
Swede Forsbrand, a six-time champion on the European Tour, is yet to win on the Senior Tour but after finished joint second in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in June and some consistent performances this season, he feels a win could be on the horizon.
“I’d take that sort of round any day,” he said. “I holed two important putts on the sixth hole and 17 for par. But otherwise it was very solid.
“The putter has been very poor of late, but it was good today. I’m very pleased. My long game has been really good at times this year, I’ve just not holed enough putts to win. I’m getting closer though.”
Scot Andrew Oldcorn leads the home challenge a further shot back on five under par, along with English pair Carl Mason and Andrew Sherborne.
Oldcorn was also happy to have improved on his performance at Turnberry last month when he missed the cut by one shot.
“I’m just so pleased to play a round without a bogey and it’s down to a lot of hard work,” he said. It’s my best round here for miles. I love this course and I think it’s a great design but I’ve just never been able to play it. I don’t read the greens well and some of the holes don’t really shape up that well for me.”
Former Ryder Cup Captains Mark James and Ian Woosnam opened with rounds of 68 and 69 respectively, while Scotland’s Gordon Brand Jnr matched Woosnam’s score for a share of tenth position.
Sam Torrance, who designed the course that bears his name, began with a level par 72, while Barry Lane’s bid for a third consecutive victory in the event got off to the worst possible start with a double bogey on the first hole as the early morning starters were hampered by adverse conditions.
Heavy rain caused a 3hours 45minutes suspension in play with the course waterlogged, and after the restart Lane went on to sign for a two over par 74 to lie eight shots off the pace.