Scottish golfers seek to round off 2017 on a high
More than 30 months may have passed since a Scottish player last won a European Tour event, but there are grounds for optimism for the country’s golfers as the season end approaches.
Richie Ramsay, who won the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco in March 2015, David Drysdale and Marc Warren are inside the top 60 in the lucrative European Tour Race to Dubai, while countrymen Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson and Russell Knox make the top 100, which is key to retaining their Tour status for next year.
Ramsay’s eighth place at the recent British Masters at Close House in Newcastle upon Tyne helped establish him in the top 25 in the European rankings, and Kingsfield’s Gallacher is approaching the form that earned him a place in Paul McGinley’s 2014 Ryder Cup team.
But it’s Warren who has enjoyed a spectacular few weeks.
Prior to the Portugal Masters, the Glaswegian was languishing in 173rd place in the rankings and facing the prospect of having to go to Tour School in an attempt to retain his card.
However, in the past three weeks he finished second in Portugal, 15th at the British Masters and fifth at the Dunhill Links closer to home.
That trio of tournaments earned him more than £400,000 and moved him up to 56th place in the rankings and the 34-year-old is upbeat as he looks ahead after a year blighted by a shoulder injury.
“Dubai [Desert Classic, missed the cut] in February was the first tournament when I had pain in my shoulder,” he explained.
“Since then I have had three cortisone injections. I also had a tear at the top of my bicep. My first diagnosis was surgery, the second was to try cortisone to see if I could play through it.
“I played in the Golf Sixes just after that in May and then Wentworth [PGA Championship] pretty much pain free but after that it was getting worse.
“I thought about taking a medical exemption but I had played a lot of events. I have played now though for a couple of months pain free and hopefully that will be it.”
This week Warren, Gallacher, Ramsay, Jamieson and Drysdale will tee off at the Golf Club Milano in the Italian Open hoping to finish high up the leader board in an event with a £6.3m prize fund.
The next generation
However, there is now a group of younger Scots showing they have the game to make an impact in the sport.
Connor Syme has been in the headlines since coming through qualifying for the Open Championship as an amateur at Gailes.
Although the 22-year-old from Fife failed to make the cut at Birkdale by four strokes, he showed he has what it takes to mix it with the world’s elite.
This led to his decision to turn professional and in his first two events he not only made the cut but finished with two top-20 placings. His target now is winning his playing rights when he attends Tour School next month.
“I’m just getting geared up for that at the moment,” Syme told BBC Scotland at St Andrews. “Tour School can be gruelling. There are four rounds at the second stage and then six rounds at the final stage in what will be a good field.
“I need to focus hard to try to get through and that is the only thing I am concentrating on at the minute.”
Another player enjoying himself at the Dunhill Links was 24-year-old Liam Johnston from Dumfries. Playing in his first event since turning professional, he recorded rounds of 72, 70, 70 and 68 to finish on eight under for the event.
Other Scots are also flying high but are overseas.
Oban 21-year-old Robert McIntyre, fresh from partnering Syme in the GB&I Walker Cup team, finished third in the Ayla Golf Championship on the Mena Tour for up-and-coming players.
And later this week North Berwick’s Grant Forrest, 24, will be in China for the Hainan Open, one of the most valuable events on the European Challenge Tour.
If they can make the leap to the European Tour we can look forward to seeing more Saltires on leader boards in years to come.