Martin Dempster: Jamieson win shows golf’s quirks

Scott Jamieson's win on Sunday capped a successful 2012 for Scottish golf. Picture: Getty
Scott Jamieson's win on Sunday capped a successful 2012 for Scottish golf. Picture: Getty
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SCOTT Jamieson’s weekend win in the Nelson Mandela Championship in South Africa was a classic reminder of how fickle golf can be.

The highlight of his career so far – it was his maiden European Tour victory – came, after all, just over three weeks on from one of those nightmare days.

The East Kilbride man is certainly no hacker but his scorecard in the first round of the UBS Hong Kong Open at Fanling looked as though it could easily have belonged to one. A quadruple-bogey eight and two triple-bogey sevens were not what you expect to see too often from a Tour player.

He signed for a 15-over par 85, which was 20 shots more than eventual winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, to sit last of the 144 players in the field and, despite salvaging some pride with a much-improved second-day effort of 72, it was game over at the halfway stage in that particular event.

Jamieson has been prone to the odd disaster since graduating from the Challenge Tour to the top table of European golf in 2011. For instance, he also slumped to an 85 in last year’s PGA Championship at Wentworth but his attitide to such setbacks has probably been the making of him.

He’s not the type to beat himself up, having accepted long ago that, in his chosen sport, there is often a fine line between good and bad.

“Golf is such a fickle game,” Jamieson said himself after he’d bounced back from his Hong Kong catastrophe to open with a 66 in the Tour Championship in Dubai seven days later.

“You can be a fraction out and feel as though the world is coming to an end,” he added.

That Jamieson has become Scotland’s latest European Tour winner should be no surprise. The 29-year-old had been knocking at the door, having recorded seven top-five finishes over the past two seasons and impressed the likes of Lee Westwood when he proved Great Britain & Ireland’s match-saving hero in last year’s Vivendi Trophy.

“Scott and also the other two rookies, Mark Foster and Jamie Donaldson, need to realise just how good as players they are,” said the eight-times Ryder Cup player. “But Scott winning the way he did over Pablo [Larrazabal] just shows he can handle the pressure.”

As highlighted in yesterday’s Scotsman, Jamieson’s victory in a weather-shortened event in Durban was Scotland’s fourth title triumph on the European Tour in the calendar year, adding to a brace of triumphs from Paul Lawrie and Richie Ramsay’s second success on 
the circuit.

Add in three Challenge Tour triumphs (delivered by Raymond Russell, Scott Henry and Chris Doak), three EuroPro Tour victories (two from Duncan Stewart and one by Wallace Booth), an Alps Tour win (Ross Kellett) and an EPD Tour success (David Law) and it was puzzling to read a fellow golf scribe yesterday asking if Jamieson’s feat “could herald the start of a Scottish revival”.

He reckoned it was a “sad reflection” on the current state of Scottish golf that Paul Lawrie is currently the country’s top-ranked player at the age of 43.

In my opinion, that is an insult to Lawrie given the effort he has made to re-ignite his career.

He is in his forties, not his sixties, and Luke Donald, 
Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter – the four English players in the world’s top 13 – aren’t exactly boy band 
material, are they?

The downbeat assessment of the Scottish game also claimed that the presence of four players (29th-ranked Lawrie, 53rd-placed Ramsay, 63rd-ranked Martin Laird and 92nd-placed Stephen Gallacher) in the world’s top 100 was “not good enough” for the country that invented the game.

That may well be true but it wasn’t that long ago that we only had one player among the game’s elite and, having climbed from 167th to 115th, Jamieson could be joining that quartet before too long.

So, too, could the likes of Marc Warren, who has won twice already on the European Tour, and David Drysdale and Peter Whiteford, the latter two having also knocked on that door in recent seasons and now with the experience to finish the job the next time they get a whiff of victory.

The likes of James Byrne and Michael Stewart, two of our rookie professionals, may be the latest players to be learning how fickle the Royal & Ancient game can be, while there is, 
indeed, some for concern about the lack of a single Scot in the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings and the overall quality of the next wave of amateur talent coming through.

But, as things stand right now, Scottish golf in general (let’s not forget three wins on the Ladies European Tour by Carly Booth and Catriona 
Matthew in 2012) is blooming in comparison to where it was a relatively short time ago.

Despite recent flak, Dawson is a fine operator

HE has been the R&A’s chief executive for 13 years but Peter Dawson has probably had more muck flung at him over the past fortnight than any other time due to a combination of Old Course changes and the proposed ban on “anchoring” putters.

Having accused him in this column a fortnight ago of playing the role of a “golfing god” over the former and following it up with some stories on it, I should perhaps have known what to expect when we spoke on the phone at the end of last week. “Now then,” was the opening gambit, “I didn’t have you down for being a hysteria merchant.”

Pointing out that I’d only been doing my job by reporting on a matter that has generated worldwide coverage, he added: “You can do your job much better than that.”

After suggesting that “passion” rather than “hysteria” had been the root of my interest in the story, we agreed to, well, disagree. The incident, however, has not changed my opinion of Dawson, a man whom I

respect and who, to his credit, has never shirked any

question that has been asked of him since he succeeded Sir Michael Bonallack.

When Dawson and Mike Davis, his counterpart at the USGA, announced the proposed anchoring ban a fortnight ago, they joined forces to produce a polished presentation, even though the subject is still a hot potato.

In comparison, the announcement of the Old Course changes was a below-par production and no-one involved should have been surprised by some negative reaction to the work, especially when it started just three days later.

It was untypical of how things have been handled on Dawson’s watch and, knowing him, I wouldn’t expect to see any repeat.