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Where have all the Scots gone?

Iain Carter | 12:53 UK time, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The latest golf world rankings make grim reading for Scottish golf fans. For the first time since the standings were introduced in 1986, there is no-one from the home of golf in the world's top 100.

Alistair Forsyth has dropped to 102nd and with Colin Montgomerie languishing in 114th place, Scotland, according to the rankings at least, has become a golfing backwater at the top of the game.

Yet which country currently holds the World Cup? Which country now holds the world amateur championship - the Eisenhower Trophy? Scotland.

So, it's not all doom and gloom, and this is a story littered with anomalies. For a start we should not read too much into Scotland's status as World Cup holders.

Yes, the victory enjoyed by Marc Warren and Montgomerie in China last year was a magnificent performance (particularly from Warren) but golf's World Cup is nothing like competitions that bear such an exalted title in other sports.

The Scots were just the best of a decent bunch that week, not the best of the best in the world.

Scotland's victory in the Eisenhower in Adelaide a fortnight ago is of more significance. The Scottish team beat the US by nine strokes and Callum Macaulay finished second in the individual event with Wallace Booth in fourth spot.

eisenhower_blog.jpg

Both are considered bright prospects and Gavin Dear also played a key role in the Scots first ever win in this event. They offer hope for the future, but then again so did Lloyd Saltman for his heroics in winning the 2005 Open Silver Medal at St Andrews.

The winner of 36 amateur titles has yet to make an impact in the pro ranks and it has also been a struggle for 2006 US amateur champion Richie Ramsay.

But Aberdeen's Ramsay is now making significant progress. Twice a winner on the European Challenge Tour he has banked 106,655 euros to finish seventh in the end of season rankings of one the toughest schools in golf.

Steven O'Hara was just one place behind and both earn category 10 status for the main tour next year, guaranteeing both starts for pretty much the entire season. They can embark upon it full of confidence.

But here is another anomaly that's worth considering in the context of this story. Ramsay is ranked 152nd in the world, fully 93 places above another Scot, Martin Laird, who could arguably claim to be the country's player of the year.

The Glaswegian graduate of Colorado State University enjoyed an August purple patch that brought two fourth-place finishes on the PGA Tour. He has made 18 cuts in 27 events and has banked more than $775,855.

It's a hefty pay cheque in most circles, but on the biggest golf tour in the world it is still not quite enough to guarantee playing privileges for next year. Laird needs one more good finish to move from 128th on the money list into the all important top 125.

Should he manage it he would secure his PGA Tour status for next year and provide another reason for Scottish optimism.

Forsyth, Stephen Gallacher, Paul Lawrie and Gary Orr all enjoyed good spells on the European Tour this year and Warren is showing signs of resurgence, but all need to harness more consistency.

It is worth remembering that it is not so long ago that the upper echelons of the world rankings were bereft of English talent. Now there are five Englishmen in the top 50.

Irish golf has enjoyed a stellar year at every level of the game in 2009. This is reflected in the fact that there are a record seven Irishmen in the elite field at Valderrama and the country has celebrated eight wins on Tour this year.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was asked about this phenomenon, but was at a loss to explain his country's extraordinary levels of success. "Obviously we've had wins on tour, numerous wins on the Euro Pro Tour, the winner of the Order of Merit on the Euro Pro Tour (Noel Fox) as well, so we've had a very strong year right down the ranks.

"If I had the answer, I would have been able to answer the question three years ago, why we had not won a single tournament that year and why we only had one or two players at the Volvo Masters.

"I didn't have the answer then, so I don't have the answer now. It's swings and roundabouts."

So, on that basis perhaps Scottish swings have been a tad out of synch, but there are enough quirks in the ranking system and enough promise in the pipeline to suggest that maybe there will be a roundabout turn in fortunes.

The home of golf should not yet despair, the state of golf in the country that gave the game to the world is not quite as parlous as the rankings suggest.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Good to see Martin Laird finally on your radar, Iain.

    I suggest you inform the golf-heathen who compiles the PGA Tour reports that Laird is indeed a Scot, as his name is habitually omitted from such reports. This past week being a prime example.

    On another subject, Phil Mickelson is once again waxing enthusiastic about finding a way to joining the European Tour, yahoo sports quoting Phil as describing the "States Market is staganant".

  • Comment number 2.

    scots can't get on their courses for all the tourists!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Great point andy2055.
    There was a time, not too many years ago, when the ordinary club golfer could get the chance to play St Andrews old course, Carnoustie,Gleneagles and even Turnberry or Troon. Not any more, our famous courses have been taken over by American and Japanese golf tourists who are happy to pay hugely inflated prices for the priveledge of saying they have played St Andrews. The whole thing is so commercialised and I think very little of the money taken in green fees is going back into the sport at grass roots level. instead it is being used to build other courses that can bear the name St Andrews and attract many more foreign visitors to fill the coffers of the greedy.

  • Comment number 4.

    Iain,
    Further to my point about Mickelson, above, there are reports that Anthony Kim, Villegas and Ogilvy have all joined the European Tour for 2009.

    And that John Daly spent 24 hours in a Police Detention Centre after being found unconscious outside a Winston Salem, NC, Hooters restaurant. Wonder whether the European Tour will choose to do anything about that?

  • Comment number 5.

    You can't blame tourists for the lack of Scottish talent coming through because there are so many other courses where youngsters can learn to play the game. My view is most youngsters nowadays would rather play virtual golf on their game consoles in the warmth of their homes than spend 20-30 pounds to play in the wind and rain.

  • Comment number 6.

    To directly answer your question, maybe Monty ate "all the Scots"!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Choice

    Why wouldn't a kid play PS3, Xbox and Wii games instead of playing the real game ?

    They get instant results - 6 year old's playing "Smoke on the Water" on Guitar Hero in 15 minutes.
    They can connect with their friends.
    They can play for as little or long as they want.
    They get freedom and no intervention from parents.

    Kids have much more choice nowadays.


    What kids get when starting golf are:


    They get weened on foam balls and golf clubs endorsed by the Government ! What golfer dreamt that one up ?

    Parents that take them to the range or course and nag them saying do this and do that. (Guilty, your honour)

    They get golf tuition which starts with the grip week one, the stance week 2, the take away week 3. Kid, "Yawn".

    Then they get handed a rule book or 100 page junior instruction manual on the rules of golf.

    Is it any wonder kids take the alternative?

    This is golf's problem. It ain't cool anymore, it ain't instant.

    I'm writing from a biased point of view marketing a golf training product but I'm also writing this as a Scottish golfing dad having 2 kids defect to console games and I totally get where my kids are coming from.

    And I'll bet I'm not the only one .

    Bring back Jim'll Fix It.

  • Comment number 8.

    I disagree about the comment that courses are out of the reach of Scots. I played St Andrews in mid March for the sum of £76 during a golfing holiday.

    There were also numerous courses that were priced very reasonably.

    Golf is just a sport that has a huge number of talented participants all jostling to reach the top of the pile. It goes in phases.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nothing on the BBC web-site about Martin Laird's fine achievement yesterday, except of course on 606.

    Given the coverage that the wonderful Laura Robson receives from a world ranking position of 559, it seems that Laird's only crime is being a Scot. He's a terrific young player Mr.Carter, high time your site started covering his achievements.

  • Comment number 10.

    Congratulations to the 4 Scottish Golfers graduating to the the 2009 European Tour School (Race to Dubai), Andrew Coltart, David Drysdale, Chris Doak and Callum MaCaulay. Then join fellow Scots Richie Ramsay and Steven O'Hara who qualified direct from the Challenge Tour (as top 20 finishers) and existing European Tour members Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie, Alastair Forsyth, Stephen Gallacher, Marc Warren, Gary Orr, Scott Henderson (plus I think Sam Torrance, Bernard Gallacher). Scotland appears to be better than ever represented on all 3 European Tours (plus Martin Laird on the PGA Tour and Sandy Lyle of the PGA Champions Tour).

 

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