South Africa’s Justin Harding finished the first round of the Scottish Open on five-under par on Thursday.
Australia’s Jason Scrivener had set the early pace thanks to a 69 at North Berwick before three-time Major champion Jordan Spieth continued his preparations for next week’s Open at St Andrews with a round of 68, only for Harding to shoot 65.
But these scores were eclipsed by Cameron Tringale’s surge to the top of the leaderboard with a spectacular 61.
The American, yet to win a professional event in his own right, started the back nine with six successive birdies to reach nine under par.
That meant he needed to play the last three holes in two under to shoot just the second 59 in the history of the DP World Tour, as the European Tour is now known.
However, the world No 55 missed from 12 feet for birdie on the par-five 16th and parred the last two holes to return a 61, equalling the course record set by Bernd Wiesberger in 2019.
“I’ve had some flashes of brilliance in the last couple months but this was a special day for sure,” Tringale said. “It would mean a whole lot [to win].
“I haven’t had a professional win on my own, and obviously Scotland is where golf started, so this place is special. Everyone here has an appreciation for the game,” added the 34-year-old, now two shots ahead of compatriot Gary Woodland.
Harding might not even been playing at North Berwick this week had a ban on DP World Tour members who played in the first breakaway LIV Golf event last month been upheld.
But the suspensions imposed on Harding, Ian Poulter – who slumped to an eight-over par 78 on the east coast of Scotland on Thursday – and Adrian Otaegui were temporarily stayed, pending determination of their substantive appeals, following a hearing before Sport Resolutions (UK) this week.
Billy Horschel accused some of the rebels of being “hypocrites and liars” in his pre-tournament press conference, with Harding saying after his first round: “I am by no means a fighter. I’m not confrontational so it’s an awkward situation to be in.
“I always thought it would be a bit tricky but didn’t realise it was going to be blown up as much as this.”
The 36-year-old added: “I was a little upset I was told I could not play. I have supported the European Tour for a long period and I’m happy to continue to do so. I’ve not had too many issues [with other players]. There are times when it’s a little uncomfortable but we have to look after ourselves.
Harding has earned more than $1 million from the individual element of the two LIV Golf events to date, finishing in a tie for 10th in the inaugural tournament at the Centurion Club, north of London.
“It was an invitational, it was worth a bucket-load of money and I felt I could play in it,” he said.
© Agence France-Presse