Scottish golf: New breed need to spur each other to success - Paul Lawrie

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Russell Knox plays a shot at the recent Valspar Championship in Florida
Russell Knox has dropped from the world's top 20 to outside the top 100

As the golfing world prepares for the first major of the season at Augusta the question has to be asked, "where are the Scots?"

For the first time since the summer of 2010, no Scot can be found in the world's top 100.external-link

The only Scot involved in this year's Masters will be Sandy Lyle, who won the event 30 years ago.

Scotland's highest-ranked player is Inverness-born Russell Knox at 101, with Martin Laird at 103.

Knox, 32, and Laird, 35, are based in America, mostly plying their trade on the lucrative but highly competitive PGA tour, and both have previously been in the top 30.

Richie Ramsay, 34, the last Scot to win a European Tour event in March 2015, has dropped to 140 in the rankings, one place ahead of compatriot Scott Jamieson, also 34.

Leading Scots in world rankingsexternal-link
101 - Russell Knox238 - Stephen Gallacher
103 - Martin Laird259 - Marc Warren
140 - Richie Ramsay289 - David Drysdale
141 - Scott Jamieson*As of 18 March 2018

The key to becoming a top-100 player is to somehow manage to force your way into the World Golf Championship (WGC) events that now dominate the golfing calendar.

These tournaments, along with the four major events - the Open, the US Open, the Masters and the USPGA - now create the gateway to golfing success.

The Scots who ply their trade on the European Tour have to wait until the middle of next month for a chance to tee up again, when the Spanish Open takes place in Madrid.

Paul Lawrie, who reached a high of 30th in the world in 2012, says he is at a loss to explain why Scots are now absent from the top 100.

"I don't have the answer," said the 1999 Open Champion. "It's a bit of a cycle we are going through.

Richie Ramsay
Ramsay is the last Scot to have won a European Tour event

"There are a load of players who are capable of being a lot higher in the world rankings, but for some reason or another they are not. We have the talent, we have the players, but just now no-one is doing an awful lot."

Lawrie says in the past there were players who were regular winners on the tour and this helped him in his motivation to succeed.

"If one player starts playing well and winning, it tends to spur a lot of other players on," the 49-year-old said.

"Stephen [Gallacher] mentioned this when I played in the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012. That spurred him on to get in the team for Gleneagles [in 2014].

"I don't think there is anyone at the minute who we can all chase and all emulate the following week.

Paul Lawrie with the Claret Jug
Lawrie is the last Scot to win a major, having won the Open at Carnoustie in 1999

"I did that all my career when Colin Montgomerie was our dominant player. When he played well, I wanted to practise harder and do better than him the following week.

"When someone from your country is doing well it spurs you on. There is no-one really out there doing that week in, week out. Hopefully, that will change as we do have players capable of the top 50, never mind the top 100."

Though no Scottish golfer has won a regular event on the European Tour since Ramsay's success in Morocco three years ago, there are emerging signs of a revival.

Gallacher, who reached a career high number 31 in the world in 2014, looks to have put injury and illness problems behind him.

The 42-year-old has two top-10 finishes in his past three events and has jumped up to number 239 in the world, having fallen to 445 around 18 months ago.

Stephen Gallacher
Gallacher has recorded two top-10 finishes in his past three events

Ramsay is another who can look forward to the rest of the season with optimism. The Aberdonian had a stellar summer last year, with a second-placed finish in Ireland quickly followed by a tie for 22nd at the Open at Birkdale.

These results, along with a steady but unflattering finish to the season, lifted him 200 spots up the rankings to his current mark of 139 while Marc Warren, Jamieson and David Drysdale have all put themselves into good positions in recent weeks.

The average winning score this season in regular European Tour events is around 18 under par, the lowest winning score being 23 under in both Dubai and Johannesburg, with 11 under being the highest winning total, in Hong Kong and most recently in India.

This week, many of Scotland's young and upcoming golfers begin their season in earnest when the Challenge Tour tees off in Kenya.

With Connor Syme and Grant Forrest among those taking part, there is optimism they have the game at their disposal to make the grade. Through invitations to participate in European Tour events, both Syme and Forrest have recorded top-20 finishes.

Connor Syme speaks to the media ahead of last year's Alfred Dunhill Championships
Syme is among the new breed of Scots who have recently joined the European Tour

Lawrie says there has never been a shortage of youngsters keen to make the breakthrough, but feels this current crop could be special.

"This group of players are probably slightly better than we have had for a while," he added.

"There is a lot of talent there. Obviously, they need to grab the opportunity and have the belief, not only to compete but to win.

"If one of them knocks off a win then it gives the other ones the belief.

"That's what's lacking a little bit at the moment. They are all playing about the same standard of golf. It takes just one of them to break out to start winning and then some of them might kick on."

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