Golf: Scott Jamieson’s progress marked by US return

Stephen Gallacher plays a shot against his conqueror Ian Poulter in the previous WGC event. Picture: Getty
Stephen Gallacher plays a shot against his conqueror Ian Poulter in the previous WGC event. Picture: Getty
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SCOTT Jamieson’s stock has risen considerably since he last played competitively in the United States. The £5.6 million WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, after all, is a far cry from a mini-tour, where the Glaswegian was cutting his professional teeth five years ago.

“To find myself coming back here to play competitively for the first time since 2008 on one of the biggest stages in the game is great,” acknowledged Jamieson, who joins compatriots Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher in today’s first round over the TPC Blue Monster.

“It’s really cool to be playing my first WGC, especially at such an iconic venue as Doral. It’s a tournament site that’s obviously been on the PGA Tour a long time, as well as becoming a WGC more recently, so I recognised some of the holes from what I’d seen on TV in past years.”

Jamieson is no stranger to the challenge of typical American courses. He spent four years at Augusta State University, where he met his wife, Natalie, and pays frequent visits to her native Florida to escape the cold conditions in his home country.

“I enjoy playing here and I spend a lot of time off in Florida so, hopefully, I can use that, along with my time I spent at college in the States, to my advantage,” added the 29-year-old, who secured his place in this week’s elite field by being second in the Race to Dubai, having won the opening event on the 2013 schedule, the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban.

For both Jamieson and Gallacher, the second WGC event of the season represents a big opportunity to significantly enhance their prospects of securing an invitation to next month’s US Masters. Gallacher is 62nd and Jamieson 75th in the world rankings, with both needing to be inside the top 50 at the end of March to join Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle at Augusta National.

Having prepared for this week’s event by playing practice rounds with Lawrie and Gallacher, Jamieson is hoping to do likewise in the build-up to the season’s first major. “It’s always been a dream for me to return to Augusta to play in The Masters, so to have another practice with Paul and Stephen would be pretty cool, along with any other Scots that still might earn an invitation,” he said.

Gallacher, Lawrie and Richie Ramsay all suffered first-round exits in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona a fortnight ago. Gallacher went down fighting to Ian Poulter, Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman but the recent Dubai Desert Classic winner reckons he’s better equipped for this latest challenge on the world stage.

“Having not played match play since the Walker Cup in the 1995, I felt rusty in Arizona and wasn’t sure what to expect. I also felt a little apprehensive,” admitted the Lothians man. “But, in this event, I can follow a game-plan knowing that I’m playing the course rather than going head-to-head. I am looking forward to this week more knowing I have four rounds and the chance to play my own game.”

Lawrie, who will have a new driver in his bag today after cracking his old one on the first hole in the match play event, is hoping the work he’s been doing on his putting with short-game guru Phil Kenyon will start to pay dividends over the next four days.

“I feel the putting is slightly better but it’s been hard going as I developed a slight loop in my stroke which takes a while to get rid of,” said the Aberdonian, who enjoyed meeting Donald Trump, owner of the Doral resort, for the first time earlier in the week.

Jamieson has American Bill Haas and former Scottish Open winner Tim Clark for company in his opening round. Lawrie is out with in-form Swede Freddie Jacobsen and Tim Merrick, while Gallacher is in the same group as lanky Englishman Chris Wood and Michael Thompson, winner of last week’s Honda Classic.