If you fancy an early flutter for next year’s Open Championship, then get some money on Matthew Southgate. And not just because he finished tied 12th at Troon last year and now joint sixth at Birkdale. The 28-year-old Englishman is a member of Carnoustie, where the 147th staging is being held.
“My dad played in a local match play tournament years and years ago. He ended up becoming a member and we’ve made some really great long-term friends,” said Southgate after signing off with a 65 on the Lancashire coast to finish on four-under-par.
“For my 16th birthday my present for getting cut to scratch was membership at Carnoustie. The support I get from there and the opportunity to play is unbelievable. I’ve played with some great players there and it has given me the opportunity to learn links golf. I’m very lucky.”
Southgate, who recently linked up with Damian Moore, Stephen Gallacher’s old caddie, secured his spot in this Open through the Irish Open along with Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale.
He won’t have to leave things so late next year, having already guaranteed a berth in the Angus line-up through finishing in the top eight here. “I think it will be an incredible turnout next year, which will be something new for me,” he added.
“All of Carnoustie will be rooting for me. It’s got a very special place in my heart and my family’s hearts. I spent a lot of time there as a kid and I think it’s the best golf course in the world. I can’t wait to peg it up and hopefully make them all proud. I try and get up yearly. When I was younger we used to go there more.”
Meanwhile, an angry Andrew Johnston insists he was right to answer criticism of him on social media ahead of his final round. The burly, bearded 28-year-old came home on Saturday to discover a national radio station was running a poll asking whether he was an inspiration or a clown.
Johnston, known by his nickname of ‘Beef’, objected to the use of the word clown and took to Twitter to defend himself, which led to something of a slanging match. He returned to Royal Birkdale to shoot a round of 71 to drop to one over par for the tournament but insisted the spat had not affected him and he was justified in defending himself.
“I got in after my round yesterday and then [I was] shown a poll saying am I an inspiration or a clown and I kind of went off a little bit. It annoyed me,” said crowd-favourite Johnston, who received messages of support on Twitter from the likes of six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.
“I had a few people message me and say ‘Maybe you should listen to the show’ – and it was actually worse listening to it.
“I don’t mind being criticised, I think it’s good taking people’s opinions to see what I can do better, and if they had put a poll out saying maybe I spend too much time with the fans or I don’t concentrate, would he play better, I’d understand that. But when he’s taking the p*** out of my face, my teeth and stuff like that, I think it’s bang out of order.
“You’ve got to stand up. Would you take it if someone said your beard looks s*** and you’ve got f***** up teeth? Exactly. I stand up for myself.
“So I was disappointed the way I hit it for the first few holes because I had a really good feeling on the range but it had nothing to do with it [the row].”