The great debate as to Renaissance’s suitability to host the Scottish Open, just days before the final major of 2019, continues apace. Needless to say there will be no complaints emanating from Bernd Wiesberger, Erik van Rooyen or Lee Slattery.

Wiesberger’s 61 – the Austrian closed with five birdies in a row – endorsed the theory that this East Lothian modern links lacks the bite necessary to prepare players for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Wiesberger’s 36-hole aggregate of 14 under par tied Van Rooyen and Slattery, who have both scored back-to-back 64s.

“I’ve played steadily,” said Wiesberger with more than a hint of understatement. “I had a couple of chances out there and just took the last five quite nicely. I played quite solid, nothing out of the ordinary. I hit a lot of shots quite close and obviously coming in, finishing off with five birdies is a bonus but it was a good day out there today. I kept controlling my golf ball and took the chances when I had to take them. I hadn’t shot 10 under in a professional event before so that was a nice bonus.”

Slattery is the only member of the leading trio who has not yet secured a berth in the Open. With places available from Scotland, the Englishman has extra motivation to remain prominent here.

“I’ve worked probably harder this winter than I’ve ever worked in the past,” Slattery said. “Doing a lot of work in the gym and changing the body a little bit and just trying to hit it further to keep up with the young guys because they all hit it so far nowadays.

“You turn 40 and you think: ‘Have I got another good 10 years left in me?’ It was the only way to do it. It’s taken a while to kick in, but hopefully I’ll start to play better finishing the season.”

Slattery is of no mind to mask his Portrush ambition. “That was my primary goal this week,” he said. “I think if you can qualify for the Open, it means you’ve had a great week and certainly last week there was enough good form to show coming into this week. That was my goal this week, believe it or not, to try and get an Open spot. Anything else is a bonus but that is the primary goal.”

Rory McIlroy’s second 67 in as many days moved him to eight under. Ian Poulter matched McIlroy’s Friday tally to reach minus 10 to keep him on contention for the weekend.

“I want to win,” said Poulter. “So that, first and foremost, burns hard within and when I get in contention, when I’m playing good golf and I feel great, that kind of dog-eat type person wants to come out and play ball. I’m 43, I’m happy and I’m playing some of the best golf of my life.”

Matt Wallace’s 66 means an eight under par total after the opening two rounds, a stroke adrift of the 2017 champion Rafa Cabrera Bello and Matt Kuchar.

Source: The Guardian