With no Scots in the European Ryder Cup winning squad it felt like something was missing, what does the future hold for the home of golf?
It has been 19 years since Paul Lawrie won The Open Championship in dramatic fashion at Carnoustie. Since then, no Scottish men have won a major golf championship, and the most recent women’s success is Catriona Matthew’s 2009 British Open victory. Colin Montgomerie was Scotland’s best hope for a long time and finished as runner-up in major tournaments on five separate occasions. He never managed to win a major title. "Nearly but not quite enough" seems like a running trend in Scottish sport, especially in golf, as Russell Knox missed out on the qualifying places for this year’s Ryder Cup. However, all is not lost. Michele Thomson won two medals at the European Championships. Bradley Neil and Sam Locke both look like good prospects. It seems like success just might be within our reach.
In the Ryder Cup European point list, Russell Knox finished 9th, well behind the four automatic qualification places. In the world point list he finished fifteenth; again too low for an automatic place, but certainly in contention for the captain’s wildcard pick. Unfortunately for Knox, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson were chosen ahead of him. Three of the picks are understandable – Poulter, Casey and Garcia all finished ahead of Knox on the world points list. However, captain Thomas Bjørn’s final pick, Stenson, finished below Knox on both the Europe and world points lists. To add insult to injury, Knox was the golfer with the highest amount of European points who did not qualify automatically. This has happened before, as the 33-year-old was agonisingly close to an automatic place in 2016, but was not chosen by the captain either that year. Harsh treatment, but Knox can still take positives from his recent fine form. His 12th place finish at the US Open (his best in a major championship) and his win at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open have elevated him back into the world top 50.
Great Britain’s golf teams performed admirably in this summer European Championships. While none of the men’s teams progressed past the group stage, two of the women’s teams made the semi-finals and one of the mixed teams finished second. Michele Thomson, of Aberdeen, won silver with the mixed team and bronze with the women’s team, who beat the British women’s team in the third-place playoff. The 30-year-old finished 16th on the Ladies European Tour (LET) Order of Merit and was the top Scottish golfer of 2017. This year she is yet to finish better than 15th in any LET tournaments, but with two European Championship medals under her belt, she will fancy herself to win one of them soon.
Bradley Neil has been showing promise for a while. He won the Amateur Championship in 2014 which qualified him for the Open Championship of that year. While he hasn’t made the cut in any of the three majors he has competed in, the young man from Blairgowrie is doing well in the minor tournaments. He finished as runner-up in the Prague Golf Challenge and the Italian Challenge Open in successive weeks in July of last year which helped him make the 2018 European Tour. His first season on the tour has been decent; the highlight being his tied 21st place finish at the Nordea Masters last month.
Sam Locke came to prominence after making it at the 2018 Open Championship. He was the only amateur to make the cut which won him the Silver Medal - the prize for the highest placed amateur at the Open. He finished the third day at two shots over par, placing him ahead of European Ryder Cup players Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton. Unfortunately, his final day was not as successful, as he hit a 78, finishing on a score of +9. He turned professional soon after his performance at Carnoustie, and the young man from Stonehaven has been performing fairly well in the Challenge Tour. Earlier this month he finished seven under par at the Bridgestone Challenge, placing him tied 39th. He has made the cut in three out of four tournaments since turning professional. Hopefully, this is the start of a long and prosperous career for the 2017 Scottish Amateur winner.
On the surface, it seems like Scottish golf is not at its strongest ebb. No Scot has won a major tournament for a while: 9 years for the women and 19 years for the men. There are no representatives from the home of the game at the Ryder Cup. However, there are positives to be taken. Russell Knox only just missed out on a place in Thomas Bjørn’s team and he has only been one of Europe’s top golfers since 2016. He has been playing some nice golf recently and has years ahead of him. We watch in anticipation to see if Michele Thomson can translate her European Championship success to major titles. Bradley Neil looks to have a good future ahead of him and Sam Locke has the world at his feet. A golden era looms.