INVERNESS, Scotland (AP) — He wears a flat cap like Ben Hogan. Has even had his swing modeled on the American Hall of Famer.
But with only one tournament victory on his resume — and that coming on the second-tier Challenge Tour — Chris Doak has a long, long way to go before getting anywhere near the achievements of his idol, a nine-time major champion.
A breakthrough of sorts could arrive this weekend, however. The 341st-ranked Doak was leading his national Scottish Open at the end of the second round on Friday after shooting two straight 66s in inviting conditions on the Castle Stuart links course.
What promises to be the biggest week of his golfing life comes a month after another memorable moment in his modest 16-year professional career, when he appeared in his first ever major — the U.S. Open at Merion.
As fate would have it, it came on the very course that Hogan produced that special 1-iron onto the green at the 72nd hole in 1950 to help force an 18-hole playoff the following morning. Hogan went on to win the major, and an image of his shot from the 18th fairway remains one of the most iconic in golf.
The galleries at Merion lapped up the headwear Doak adorned for his two rounds there last month. At Castle Stuart, spectators are admiring his shots as well. "I quite like the tradition, the older style of dressing," Doak told The Associated Press, before jokingly adding: "Plus, I have too big a head for a baseball cap."
Doak's fixation with Hogan has only soared due to his association with coach Bob Torrance, who believes the American has the purest swing of any golfer. But that's not the only reason Doak has worn his signature white flat cap for five years. He is also a big fan of rock band AC/DC, whose lead singer Brian Johnson dons a similar cap.
"I have always liked Hogan, and I've studied his swing," Doak said. "I always wanted to wear the cap but I thought people would take the mick. "Anyway, I was at an AC/DC concert with the missus and I said, 'I'd love to wear that' because their lead singer wears the same kind of cap, too. I wore it for a few weeks, took the jibes, and went from there."
The amiable Doak is bidding to become the first Scot to win his national open since Colin Montgomerie in 1999 but it will arguably be the most pressure-filled weekend of his career. Many Scots have gone close in the intervening 14 years — Marc Warren blew a three-shot lead with four to play 12 months ago — but never finished off the job.
Doak, though, has a pedigree of winning in the Highlands in his years on the Scottish PGA's Tartan Tour and believes the experience gained at the U.S. Open will prove vital. "It's totally different to any other tournament — it's makes you focus a lot more," he said. "The experience all in all was great and spurs you on to get back there.
"To hear all the Highland accents up here cheering you on, it's fantastic."