NO wonder he didn’t want to count his chickens. But, after twice being denied in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event in the previous four years, it was third-time lucky for Gareth Wright in the £50,000 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship.
Born in London and raised in Wales, the 32-year-old has lived in Scotland for 16 years and classes the Tartan Tour as home. “This is my national championship and it feels great to win it,” said the West Linton player after closing with a brace of 68s on the King’s Course for a nine-under-par total of 275.
In becoming the first non-Scot to claim the coveted crown since Englishman Mark Seymour secured the last of three triumphs 80 years ago, Wright won by a shot from Buchanan Castle’s Jason McCreadie, the 2008 champion, with Kemnay’s Greg McBain a shot further back in third.
Both McCreadie and McBain had eagle putts at the last to tie with Wright but, from 20 feet and 35 feet respectively, they were unsuccessful, with McBain then missing a short one back.
Wright, who finished top of the long-driving statistics when he played in all four rounds of the Open at Muirfield last summer, lost in a play-off to Chris Doak in 2010 then was pipped again by Greig Hutcheon last year. On that occasion, Wright eagled the last but fell one shot short as Hutcheon, the Tartan Tour No 1, held his nerve to hole a four-foot birdie putt.
“I think the course owed me this one,” said a smiling Wright, who picked up £9,000 for a win that he rated as being “on par” with his success in the 2012 British Club Professionals’ Championship. “I wasn’t counting my chickens until Greg putted, but it’s nice to finally get the job done in this event,” added the winner. Three behind McBain and Robert Arnott at halfway, Wright ominously moved into a share of the lead after his three-under-par morning effort. As the occasional rain shower hit the Perthshire venue in the afternoon, his final round didn’t get off to the best of starts. “I three-putted the second for the third time this week,” Wright reported. He also failed to pick up “gimme birdies” at both the tenth and 14th as he was briefly overtaken by McCreadie. But, after Wright birdied the 15th, McCreadie, who still went on to record a closing 67 – the best effort of the final day – then dropped a costly shot at the 17th. “I three-putted ten times so if I’d putted half decent it could have been really special,” admitted Wright, who was delighted nonetheless to land such a notable triumph in his first competitive outing since the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School last November.
“I only got back on Saturday from Florida, where I spent a fortnight on a working holiday,” he revealed. “Kenny Nairn, a friend of mine, sorts out practice for me over there. I get up at 5.30am to get a lot of good work done before going to the theme parks and being dragged round the shops by my wife. It was nice to get sun on my back after a winter in Scotland.”
Wright is off on his travels again this weekend. “I’ve managed to secure an invitation for next week’s event in Turkey on the Challenge Tour so it’s been a great start to the season,” he said.
Arnott, winner of last week’s inaugural P&H Championship at Dundonald Links, finished fourth after closing with a brace of 71s, with defending champion Hutcheon catapulting himself through the field with last-day scores of 69 and 68 to share fifth with Scott Herald and Christopher Currie.
“The holes were like cellophane bridges,” groaned Hutcheon after seeing a series of putts glide over them. “But, after being woken up by two poor rounds to start, it was nice to have two good rounds today and, with pro-ams coming up at Deeside and Buchanan Castle, it means I’m going into the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in a fortnight’s time having played more heading into that than ever before.”
The final professional event at Gleneagles before the Ryder Cup in September, it was hailed as a resounding success, with drainage work carried out by bosses paying dividends as the King’s Course dried out remarkably well after heavy overnight rain had raised concerns.