- Alistair Tait
Scotland’s time to shine
The Scottish Golf Union must look across the border with envy when it totes up English victories on the European Tour. Englishmen winning tournaments is as regular as clockwork. Not so much for Scotsmen.
Thankfully, there looks to be a glimmer of promise on the horizon.
Martin Laird’s Shriners Hospitals for Children on the PGA Tour victory lifted the spirts of those of us who call the land north Hadrian’s Wall home. It was the first Scottish victory on the PGA Tour since Russell Knox’s 2016 Travelers Championship victory. Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Justin Rose, and Ian Poulter all racked up PGA Tour wins in the interim.
Laird’s victory took him back into the world top 100, moving him to 88th. He’s one of two Scots in the top 100 along world number 94 Robert McIntyre. England has 13 top 100 players. Tyrrell Hatton’s BMW PGA Championship victory took him to 10th, his first time inside the world top 10.
Hatton's win is one of six English victories on this year's European Tour against one lone Scottish victory: Marc Warren's Austrian Open triumph. Needless to say, a Scot winning this week's Scottish Championship at St Andrews would be the perfect complement to Laird's win.
A look at this week’s European Tour facts and figures shows Scotland ranks fifth for all time victories since 1972 with 140. England is first with 345. The U.S. has 241, Spain 191, and South Africa 153.
England’s dominance over its closest neighbour in recent years is obvious. There have been 57 English victories on the European Tour since 2015 against just six Scottish wins. Scotland isn’t just lagging behind England, it’s getting lapped.
Some reading this will point out the obvious size difference between the two nations. The theory goes that a bigger population means more opportunity to nurture and develop talent. I’m not buying that. New Zealand has a tiny population yet it's the world’s greatest rugby nation. Canada is the world’s best in ice hockey despite having a far smaller population than the United States and Russia. The Netherlands has reached two World Cup finals, and on it goes.
Lest we forget, this game we love was invented in Scotland. It’s not called the Home of Golf for nothing. As such, it should be a breeding ground for future stars. Yet we’ve had many European seasons in recent years where Scotland has not recorded one single victory on the European circuit.
Stephen Gallacher is the last Scot to play in the Ryder Cup. He featured in Europe’s 2014 win at Gleneagles. Scottish golf fans have had to watch a plethora of young Englishmen play in the match over the last two contests.
The Scottish Golf union throws a lot of money at elite amateur teams, sending players around the world to compete. The system has produced amateur success in recent years. Yet while English amateurs seem to graduate naturally to the professional ranks, Scots struggle. The SGU just hasn’t got the same return on its investment. Why? Very good question, one smarter people than me are better prepared to answer.
Thankfully the current crop of youngsters looks as if they are ready to give England’s best a wee run for their money on the European circuit. Robert McIntyre is obviously the big hope. The Oban man took European Tour Rookie of the Year honours last year, and looks to have the sort of gritty attitude needed to win multiple European Tour events.
Paul Lawrie protégé David Law is already a European Tour winner; he has one of those aforementioned six Scottish wins since 2015. He surly has more to come?
Connor Syme and Grant Forrest have good amateur pedigree. Both played in the Walker Cup while Forrest reached the final of the Amateur Championship. Their time will also surely come.
Syme and Forrest are among the 16 Scots teeing it up alongside MacIntyre in this week’s Scottish Championship in St Andrews. After consecutive English victories on the European Tour, a Scottish win at the Home of Golf would be more than welcome. It’s Scotland’s time to shine.
#JustSaying: “Is winning The Open worth £1 million? Well, it’s certainly worthwhile winning it – I’d recommend it to anybody.” Sandy Lyle