Golf: 2015 should ease Ryder Cup hangover

Catriona Matthew will target an eighth successive Solheim Cup spot. Picture: Getty
Catriona Matthew will target an eighth successive Solheim Cup spot. Picture: Getty
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IT has taken longer than I’d expected but my Ryder Cup hangover has finally kicked in. Starting exactly two years ago, when we waited with bated breath to see who’d get the European captaincy, the event at Gleneagles became the focal point, with rarely a day passing without it being mentioned in either print or word.

It was a memorable journey, one that ended, of course, with a well-deserved victory for Paul McGinley’s side and how enjoyable it was over the festive period to see reruns of the contest on Sky Sports to be reminded of what a fantastic spectacle it was.

In short, 2014 is going to be a hard act to follow for Scottish golf, though that’s not to say that we don’t have any tasty tournament treats in store to get those juices flowing again. An Open Championship at St Andrews with Rory McIlroy as the title holder is something to relish, as are the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open heading to Gullane, Turnberry hosting the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the new Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Matchplay at Murcar Links.

The Ryder Cup will be a distant memory by the time we get our teeth into that lot and for plenty of Scottish players the 2015 campaign has the potential to be a stellar one, with hopes particularly high for the following:

Stephen Gallacher – the Lothians man starts the year sitting 35th in the world rankings, having climbed 31 spots over the last 12 months. He chalked up eight top 10s in 2014, including his successful defence of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title, and revelled in being on that winning Ryder Cup team. It’s about kicking on now for Gallacher and making his presence felt in majors and WGCs. Can he win on the game’s biggest stages? Seriously, why not?

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Marc Warren and Richie Ramsay – expect one of these two, if not both, to have broken into the world’s top 50 by the end of the year. Following his Made in Denmark victory last season, Warren now has three European Tour titles to his name but, for me anyway, has only just scratched the surface in terms of what he is capable of achieving. Ramsay, too, has both the talent and determination to add this year to his brace of wins.

Russell Knox and Martin Laird – between them, this pair have flown the flag admirably on the PGA Tour over the past two or three seasons. Knox rose from 245th to 100th in the world in 2014 and will now be looking to become a winner on the US circuit, where Laird has already tasted success and can start challenging for more now that he’s had his annus horribilis.

Craig Lee, David Drysdale and Chris Doak – while it’s difficult to pick one above the other, this could well be the breakthrough year for one of this trio. All three are now familiar with the European Tour’s regular haunts and have also shown – Doak, for instance, when he closed with a 66 at St Andrews to finish fifth in the Dunhill Links last season – they’ve got something in there that can see them get the job done when the opportunity arises.

Paul Lawrie – having failed to register a single top-10 finish last year, the 1999 Open champion has slipped to 323rd in the world. Having recently turned 46, the Aberdonian will soon be turning one eye to the Senior ranks – but not just yet. He’s been working his socks off since seeing his 2014 campaign come to a close in October and don’t be surprised if he starts rolling back the clock again, just as he did in 2012.

Catriona Matthew – by her own high standards, last season wasn’t exactly earth-shattering for the North Berwick woman as he slipped from 11th to 28th in the world rankings. Start writing her off at your own peril, though. The 45-year-old will be determined to make an eighth Solheim Cup appearance when St Leon-Rot in Germany hosts the biennial bout in September, so look out for her returning to winning ways in 2015.

Bradley Neil and Grant Forrest – Scotland’s top-ranked amateur duo both hold strong claims already of restoring our Walker Cup pride after the bitter disappointment of failing to provide a representative in the 2013 match. As the reigning Amateur champion, Neil will have lots of opportunities to make it impossible for Nigel Edwards, the Great Britain & Ireland captain, to leave him out of the line-up for September’s match at Royal Lytham. Forrest, a member of Europe’s Palmer Cup-winning team last year, can also earn another crack at the Americans.

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