David Drysdale doesn’t want to become just the seventh Scottish golfer to chalk up 500 European Tour appearances without having achieved the goal that remains his driving ambition – a maiden victory on the circuit.
The 43-year-old from Cockburnspath was playing in his 468th event on the tour when he started the 2019 campaign on a promising note by finishing fifth behind the young Englishman, Aaron Rai, in the Honma Hong Kong Open at Fanling last weekend.
To join Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie, Gordon Brand Jnr, Stephen Gallacher and Sandy Lyle in reaching that milestone in the current campaign, Drysdale would need to play in more tournaments in the one season than he has in eight years, meaning it’s more likely to happen early on in the 2020 season.
“No matter when it is, I don’t want to get there without winning a tournament – that remains my biggest goal,” declared Drysdale, speaking to The Scotsman as he prepared for attempt No 469 in this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
At the start of his 18th consecutive season on the circuit – he made his debut in the 1999 Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles before securing a card for the first time three years later – Drysdale posted four scores in the 60s on a demanding course in the Hong Kong event.
He’s hoping that effort is a sign of things to come in the new campaign after a frustrating 2018 season, which began with him missing the cut in eight of the first ten events before a late flourish secured his card as he finished 107th in the Race to Dubai.
“Last season was a bit of a hard slog as it was kind of a strange year for me,” admitted Drysdale, who is attached to Eyemouth, a short drive from his home in Berwickshire. “Normally, I make a lot of cuts and don’t have many high finishes but last year I made very few cuts. I just didn’t play well but, having said that, I had a couple of chances to win going into the back nine on Sunday in both Germany [Porsche European Open] and Holland [KLM Open].
“I was injured in January and it took me quite a while to get back into it. I just didn’t pick it up and get back to my normal ball-striking. I missed the cut in eight out of my first ten events, which is just garbage, before keeping my card as I started to play some good stuff in the last five or six weeks of the season.” Even then, he was having the odd round that was unlike him. The third round of the British Masters at Walton Heath, for example. “I played brilliantly from tee to green the first couple of days, but then threw in my weirdest round ever on the Saturday as I shot 80,” he said. “It was a bizarre round of golf and it was a similar story at Valderrama the following week as I came back on the Monday to complete my last eight holes and shot four-over for that stretch out of nowhere.”
Helped by 24 top-ten finishes, Drysdale’s official prize-money on the tour is in excess of £4.6 million. Not exactly shabby, but that glaring omission from his CV continues to gnaw. His hunger has been intensified by English duo Richard McEvoy and Paul Waring landing maiden titles at the 285th and 200th attempts respectively in 2018.
“I’ve just got to play the way I know I can play,” he insisted. “In 2017 [when he finished 56th in the Race to Dubai], I played in all the Final Series events and didn’t have a chance to win a tournament. It’s strange how it works out as I had no consistency at all in 2018 yet had a couple of chances to win.
“You have to be positive about hanging to a card, as I did for this season, but I don’t want to finish 107th in the Order of Merit. I don’t want to be in the position where I’m heading into the final few weeks of the season needing to pull something out of the bag. I don’t feel I should be in that position with the amount of experience I’ve got and the amount of golf I play most of the time.”
After the event in Mauritius, where the field also includes Grant Forrest and Liam Johnston, Drysdale has two tournaments in South Africa to end the calendar year. The second of those – the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek – will mark the third anniversary of his wife, Vicky, also becoming his full-time caddie.
“Vicky is doing a great job. She has been fantastic on the bag,” he said. “She is so positive and is exactly what I need. I’ve spent 15 years of having caddies every week and I’ve had some great lads on the bag. But Vicky has been in a different league. She’s kicked me in the arse when I’ve needed that to keep me going. Even in what was a tough year, I felt we were trying on every single shot.
“She is learning all the time and last year she pulled some good clubs when I’ve maybe wanted to go with a different one. She’s picking up on the wind and elevation changes. She has a lot more input now than she did a couple of years ago.”