Scotland’s golfers chase global goals

Matthew makes LPGA return in Korea. Picture: Neil Hanna
Matthew makes LPGA return in Korea. Picture: Neil Hanna
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GOLF has become a global game for Scotland’s Tour professionals. Events starting today on four different circuits are proof of that. In Australia, China, Korea and the United States, a posse of players from the home of golf set out chasing different goals.

For Scott Henry, the European Tour’s final regular event on the 2013 schedule, the Perth International, is the “Last Chance Saloon”. He lies 123rd in the Race to Dubai and needs to climb 13 spots to retain his card come Sunday night.

The 26-year-old trails 110th-ranked Gaganjeet Bhullar from India by around around £35,000 heading into the event at Lake Karrinyup, so needs to finish seventh or better to spare himself a trip to next month’s Qualifying School.

It’s a formidable task but not impossible. Henry had the game for a big occasion when he won last year’s Kazakhstan Open, the Challenge Tour’s flagship event. The former Scottish Stroke-Play Championship also produced a big performance when tying for fourth spot in this season’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Henry has been joined in making the long journey to Australia by three compatriots – Craig Lee, David Drysdale and Chris Doak. Lee and Drysdale both have their cards safely wrapped up but are trying to force their way into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. It features the top 60 on the money-list, which shows Lee sitting agonisingly close in 61st spot at the moment and Drysdale with an outside chance in 77th.

As for Doak, he has decided to play it safe. A top-ten finish in Portugal last weekend lifted him to 105th but, rather than sitting at home and worrying about the possibility of five players leapfrogging him this weekend, he has opted to try to secure one more cheque to hang on to his coveted card.

The battle to earn promotions to the main circuit fom the Challenge Tour has moved from Kazakhstan to China for the Foshan Open. It’s the second-tier circuit’s first visit to China for five years and is important for a five-strong Scottish contingent.

With only one other regular event to come – in Oman next week – it’s crunch time and the first priority is to be in the top 45 on the money list after that to make the Grand Final in Dubai. That means 57th-ranked George Murray and Raymond Russell, lying 73rd, both need a good week in the Nanhai District.

For Duncan Stewart, Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary, meanwhile, it is about trying to improve on their current positions inside that cut-off zone as the battle to finish in that all-important top 15 as the end of the season reaches boiling point.

Stewart, who tied for second in Kazakhstan, is lying 14th at the moment and a strong finish to the campaign will see him follow in the spikemarks of Lee and Doak, both of whom were Challenge Tour graduates. McArthur, in 28th, and McLeary, two spots lower, both need even better sign-offs to be playing at a high level next season.

Also in action in Asia this week is Catriona Matthew, who returns after a well-earned break in the LPGA Tour’s KEB·HanaBank Championship at Incheon, South Korea. It is the North Berwick player’s first outing since the Evian Championship in France just over a month ago and she joins a star-studded field for the third leg of the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Last, but by no means least, Martin Laird and Russell Knox are aiming to hit the jackpot in Las Vegas, where the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open is the second event of the new PGA Tour season.

It is one of Laird’s favourite stops on the US circuit, having landed the title for his breakthrough success in 2009, then only being denied a successful defence 12 months later when Jonathan Byrd fired a hole-in-one in a three-man play-off.

In his first outing since regaining his PGA Tour card, Knox tied for 26th in last week’s Open at CordeValle, where he hit a drive 378 yards at the 18th in one of the rounds after it bounced down the cart path.