John Huggan: Scott Jamieson’s change of style paying off

Sand man: Scott Jamieson won the European Tour's Nelson Mandela Championship at the end of last year. Picture: Getty
Sand man: Scott Jamieson won the European Tour's Nelson Mandela Championship at the end of last year. Picture: Getty
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He’s done it all with less fanfare than he has surely deserved but, in just over two years as a card-holding member of the European Tour, Scott Jamieson has already achieved a remarkable amount of success.

Winner of the recent Nelson Mandela Championship – beat that for an inspirational tournament title – member of a winning Seve Trophy team in which he partnered Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood (and didn’t look out of place, scoring three points out of four) and now ranked inside the world’s top 75, the 29-year old from Cathkin Braes has accelerated like few others into the top echelons of the game.

Which is odd, if only because of how slowly the former Scottish Boys’ Stroke Play champion found his way in the professional ranks after a highly successful amateur career, in which he won the 2006 Scottish Order of Merit and represented his country at the World Amateur Team Championship.

Three generally lacklustre years on the third-division Europro Tour followed, before an initially pedestrian season on the Challenge Tour was lucratively and crucially ignited by a runner-up finish in the Kazakhstan Open. The key, however, was that the quietly unassuming Jamieson was, all the while, paying close attention to his various experiences, a much underrated attribute in even the best golfers.

“I like to think I learned my trade in the lower leagues, especially playing well when in contention,” he says. “Winning or having a high finish is difficult, no matter the level of competition. You have to learn how to win. And although I didn’t actually do that on the Challenge Tour, I finished second in the biggest money event. That was worth more than some wins, to be honest.

“I learned how to compete under pressure and also that you don’t have to be perfect to win. When I first turned pro, I was guilty of thinking that, if even the smallest part of my game was off, I couldn’t win. Actually, the opposite is true. I’ve found that I often have my best weeks when I have less than my ‘A-game’. When that is the case, I’m forced to think better and more clearly.”

Of course, paying attention in class has never been a problem for Jamieson. Four years at Augusta State University showed him the parts of his game that needed work –
most obviously his shots around the greens – and hardened him to life on the road.

“I loved my time in Augusta,” Jamieson says with a smile. “It was great for my golf. I was forced to learn a short game. At home, I was hitting short irons to nearly every green. But in the States I was playing courses over 7,000 yards, so suddenly I was hitting mid and long iron approaches. And missing a few greens. So I needed to get up and down to score.

“One of the best parts of college was getting to play Augusta National once every year. I shot 80 the first two times but didn’t really care. I was too busy looking around at the spots where all the famous shots were hit. I couldn’t believe how hilly it is, which is what everyone says. Plus, it was nice to see the front nine which I hadn’t seen at all.

“I’ve made an eagle at the 13th and I had a two at the 12th one year. But I’ve never played the course in tournament conditions. It was always soft when I was there. But, needless to say, I’m keen to get back there and see what it is really like.”

We can assume, then, that Jamieson will do whatever it takes to get from his current world ranking of 72 into the world’s leading 50 players by the end of March, a time when such a position would guarantee him an invitation back to Augusta for the Masters.

Hard work is not something he has ever been afraid of.

“I changed my coach right at the end of my amateur career,” he explains. “I had done well enough at that level but I never felt in control of my swing. So I went to see Alan McCloskey, the pro at Bothwell Castle. He was brutal. The only part of my game good enough for me to be what he calls a ‘telly golfer’ was my bunker play. That was alarming to hear, but just what I needed. He told me I was still capable of getting the job done with what I had, but only in specific circumstances. He is really into the importance of ball flight and is always going on about how we Scots tend to hit the ball too low. Which is true, especially on a typical tour course. With narrow fairways and firm greens, approach shots tend to bounce and run too far, so putts are longer. And you come off thinking you can’t putt. But the problem is really how high you can’t hit the ball.

“So I had to improve my ability to hit the ball through the air, which I have. Alan is adamant I used to hit my driver 17 feet off the ground. Now I hit my driver as high as almost anyone. And I certainly couldn’t hit a 3-iron as high as I do now. My game has improved hugely really. I’ve gone from being a Scottish player to being an international player, even after spending four years in the States.”

Another big part of Jamieson’s ongoing golfing education came in the 2011 Seve Trophy between Britain and Ireland and continental Europe, where he played under 2014 Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley.

“Paul was terrific as non-playing captain,” recalls Jamieson. “He was especially nice to me, the rookie. He took me to the side and explained what my role was and what he expected from me – which was to enjoy myself and do my best. He completely put me at ease. Which makes me think he’ll be a great Ryder Cup captain. He was brilliant in the team room and got us all fired up to play.

“And being in that room was amazing. It was a bit surreal sitting there. I was the only guy I’d never heard of, and the likes of Lee, Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter must have been wondering who the guy in the corner was. I picked up a lot but the biggest thing was realising that everyone has his own routine. They all did what they wanted to do in order to prepare. There was no right and wrong. Especially early in your pro career it is easy to just do what everyone else does. Which is a mistake. So I now do what I know is best for me and never mind what anyone else is up to.”

Looking ahead, Jamieson and his American wife Natalie – “it must be love, she moved from Florida to Glasgow” – understandably have their sights set on the Masters. But next month’s World Match Play Championship is more achievable. A jump of only seven rankings places would see Jamieson into the elite field. Bet on him making it too. If past history is anything to go by, Scott Jamieson will get to where he wants to go.