So, the 2016 European Tour season will, indeed, come to a conclusion in Dubai this week without a single Scot involved in the DP World Tour Championship. Admittedly, Russell Knox qualified – comfortably, in fact, in 35th place in the year-long Race to Dubai – for the $8 million season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The US-based Scottish No 1 has decided, though, not to include the event on his end-of-year schedule. That’s a pity, but should we really be looking for Knox to be flying the Saltire in this particular tournament? I think not.
In the end, Richie Ramsay came closest among our European Tour regulars to getting into the top 60 on the money list. Finishing 68th, though, wasn’t what he was hoping for and neither was 72nd for Marc Warren. Warren had been 66th and Ramsay 68th heading into the Final Series. With a mountain of money on offer in both the Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Challenge, they’ll be bitterly disappointed to see their seasons end prematurely, albeit by just one week.
Make no mistake, it’s not good for the Home of Golf that arguably the biggest event of the European Tour season will take place for the first time since its inception in 2009 without any Scottish representation. However, I’m prepared to write off this dismal campaign as a blip because I genuinely believe that the players flying the flag for Scotland at the top level on this side of the Atlantic are miles better than what we’ve seen from them this season.
Put it this way, I’d be amazed if Ramsay and Warren, to name but two, miss that end-of-season bash in a year’s time, though we will find out today exactly what’s in store for 2017 when Keith Pelley, the Tour’s chief executive, takes the wraps off his much-anticipated plans in Dubai. Both Ramsay and Warren have three European Tour titles to their names. They are good enough to double those tallies in the next few years. Watching someone like Alex Noren see his career go to the next level on the back of four sensational successes in the second half of the season will surely inspire players like them.
Ramsay will be hurting like hell to be at home in Edinburgh this week. He desperately wanted to be joining up in Dubai with his wife, Angela, and their baby daughter, Olivia. The two females in his life have definitely helped the 33-year-old view life with a different perspective. I remember his black mood after he missed the cut in the Open at Royal Lytham four years ago. After a poor round in Turkey just over a week ago, he was absolutely raging with himself, but his self-analysis was more measured.
As was Ramsay’s response to the disappointment of coming up a circuit short in the Race to Dubai. “The great thing about golf is that it’s all on me,” he said. “My fault for not getting there, but it will be on me when I get back competing.”
In using “hardworkpaysoff” as his hashtag on that post on Twitter, he displayed exactly the sort of attitude you want to see at a time like this. Good on him and you can rest assured that Warren, David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson, Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and Duncan Stewart, our current European Tour card holders for next season, will all be working their socks off over the coming weeks to try to get that 2017 campaign off to flying starts.
I’ve heard it said that our top players either don’t have the same attitudes or don’t work as hard on their games as their English counterparts or some of our Continental cousins. Really? Having spent the last 20 years or so reporting on the careers of the aforementioned players, I’d say that is so far off the mark that it’s a joke. Check out Twitter or his website and see the effort that Lawrie still puts in on the practice range. Gallacher has hit thousands of balls over the past few months alone as he’s worked on a new swing. Warren enjoyed a bit of late-season form through finding something on the range. Drysdale isn’t about to enter his 10th year in a row on the European Tour by sitting with his feet up in front of the television. Jamieson’s natural talent is augmented by a good work ethic. And Stewart’s sweat at the Challenge Tour coalface has earned him a seat back at the top table in European golf.
So, let’s not insult any of these players by insinuating that this week’s unfortunate situation is down to either laziness or bad attitudes. Yes, of course, it’s disappointing that this is the first time since 2009 that there hasn’t been a single Scottish success on the European Tour. Even more so when you consider the only other time that has happened over the past two decades was in 2003. But let’s not fall into that infuriating modern-day trap of reacting to this in knee-jerk fashion. Let’s get behind our top players and show that we believe they have the talent and tenacity to turn Scotland into a force again on our main circuit.
Look at what Knox is achieving on the PGA Tour. When he started out there, did we really think he could become a WGC winner and break into the world’s top 20? Probably not. He’s become a real credit to his country, though, through sheer determination allied, of course, to a good all-round golf game. He’s comfortable now on the game’s biggest stages. Warren was the same when he gave a good account of himself in the US PGA Championship in 2013 and 2014. You get the feeling that Ramsay’s game would thrive, too, the more he played on stages like that.
With Martin Laird getting back to his best and getting his name on leaderboards along with Knox, exciting times lie ahead for Scottish golf on the PGA Tour and that really is terrific. Let’s not get too gloomy, though, by that absence from the European Tour’s showpiece event this week because it’s extremely unlikely to happen again.