George Murray used principles of meditation to produce his second four-under-par 67 over the Macdonald Spey Valley course and claim the halfway lead in the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
The 27-year-old former Scottish amateur champion from Anstruther who has yet to enjoy his first triumph as a professional has been reading a book called Zen Golf, the same one that helped Vijay Singh to become a major champion.
“It chills me out. I approach every shot as though it has no relevance,” said the Fifer who enhances his eastern leanings by practising yoga in winter. “I stand over four-footers thinking they’re not important. If I miss then it’s not the end of the world.”
Just as unimportant is the matter of money and Murray earned around £40,000 for finishing third earlier this season in the Madeira Islands Open.
“I needed that because I was skint at the beginning of the year, but it hasn’t made the difference between playing in tournaments or not. I’d have just rolled up debt on the credit card,” he said with a shrug. “You are looking at £1000 a week on tour.”
That big prize was on the European Tour. This week is a developmental tournament, a step down on the Challenge Tour, and the prize for coming first is £27,000 and he heads Germany’s Christoph Gunther, Sweden’s Magnus Carlsson and England’s Lee Slattery by a stroke.
“I am just going to go out tomorrow, hit it, find it and go round in as few strokes as possible,” said Murray. “I don’t really think about winning, I just want to let it happen. That’s the Zen Golf talking. I was in the last group for the last two days in Madeira so I have been up there.”
Yesterday he opened with a drive, pitch and carefree four-footer for birdie and followed that with four more of the same. Naturally, he was unconcerned at his only dropped shot at the 12th. “It was a difficult par-4 today so I’m not bothered,” he said.
Another irrelevance this week is good diet, his housemates for the week, Scott Jamieson, Adam Gee and Robert Dinwiddie, having produced a chocolate cake complete with candles for his birthday on Thursday.
Housemate Jamieson was in the frame, too, after a 69 yesterday for 137 to lie three off the pace and Chris Doak kept his hopes alive with a 70 for the same halfway total.
One of the most notable showing was from Lloyd Saltman, who was Scotland’s great hope for the future five years ago and showed signs of a return to form with a six-birdie inward nine.
The 24-year-old won the silver medal for top amateur in the 2005 Open at St Andrews but so far has failed to live up to that promise. Yesterday’s 67 for 139 that left him five behind Murray is hardly reason to announce that the fallow days are over, but his tail is now up and he has brought a run of five missed cuts in a row on the Challenge Tour to an end.
It came at a time when the scent of a possible return to the Open at the home of golf, where he was joint 15th last time, is driving his ambition again, and so is the current form of Welshman Rhys Davies who is now challenging for a Ryder Cup place.
“We grew up together and Rhys has always been a great player. Look at him last year, he didn’t have a category but now he has won more than 1million Euros,” he said.
“He has done the right thing by staying patient and not chasing his tail and that is a rut that maybe I get caught up in a little bit and pushing too hard instead of enjoying myself on the course.
“I know I have the game and the aptitude. I just have to wait for it all to fall together and if I get to St Andrews then who knows what might happen.”
Saltman is waiting to find out his venue for local final qualifying and said he was hoping it would be Scotscraig where he qualified back in 2005. In the meantime he is languishing at No.130 on the Challenge Tour order of merit, but believes he is on the right track with a new putting set-up he has been working on with coach Colin Brooks and a more controlled left-to-right ball flight.
Saltman finished with three straight birdies, holing at the last from 20 feet. “I’m a little bit behind but I can push on from here today and tomorrow,” he said.[Douglas Lowe, Sunday Herald]