Scots suffer play-off agony in bid to retain title

Gareth Wright: Victory chance. Picture: Contributed
Gareth Wright: Victory chance. Picture: Contributed
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Scotland’s brave bid to retain the PGAs of Europe International Team title ended in disappointment as they lost to France in a play-off in Turkey. After a marathon battle between the pair at Gloria Golf Club in Belek, the Auld Alliance finished locked together on 18-under-par, two shots ahead of third-placed Ireland.

West Linton’s Gareth Wright almost secured victory for the Scots with a birdie attempt at the last but then three-putted from 15 feet after being nominated for the play-off against Raphael Eyraud. “I was disappointed to finish that way for the guys,” admitted the Edinburgh-based Welshman, who had started a three-week trip by winning the PGA Play-Offs at nearby Antalya Golf Club.

On a thrilling last day, Clydeway Golf’s Graham Fox again led the way for the Tartan Tour trio with a four-under-par 68, which saw him finish as the leading individual in the event for the second year running. Helped by a birdie at the 17th, where his eagle attempt lipped out, a 70 from Wright was the other counting score as Eastwood’s David Orr signed off with a 76.

It was Orr, as team captain, who picked Wright for the sudden-death shootout, explaining: “Had the play-off hole been the short 18th I would have gone for Graham Fox because he’s a very strong iron player. But the long first hole was more suited to Gareth’s game.”

Eyraud’s approach that set up his par after clearing trees and a lake on its 200-plus yard journey to the back of the green was worthy of winning any tournament, but Wright was still left kicking himself after failing to match that score. “After a poor tee shot, I then left myself a perfect gap wedge yardage only to hit a poor shot to about 15 feet and then three-putted,” he groaned after seeing his fine season – along with Fox, he also helped GB&I record a first PGA Cup win on US soil – end on a low note.

Elsewhere, another Scottish trio – Colin Montgomerie, Gordon Brand Jnr and Ross Drummond – all produced sub-par efforts in the opening round of the European Senior Tour’s season-ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.

The day there belonged to South African David Frost as the two-time winner surged to the top of the leaderboard courtesy of four birdies and an eagle in his last six holes for a seven-under-par 65.

However, Montgomerie is lying joint third after finishing birdie-birdie for his 68 and both Brand Jnr and Drummond are also sitting handily placed after posting 69 and 70 respectively on the Legend Course at Constance Belle Mare Plage. “It was nice to finish strongly, especially I was overheating a little,” said Montgomerie of the searing temperatures in the Indian Ocean. “I’m fairly happy with the start, but there’s definitely a little bit of room for improvement over the next two days.”

On the women’s front, Kelsey MacDonald boosted her bid to avoid a re-sit at the LET Qualifying School next week as Shanshan Feng closed in on a third Omega Dubai Ladies Masters title in four years by opening up a five-shot lead after a third successive 67 to sit on 15-under-par.

MacDonald posted a two-under-par 70 in the third round at the Emirates Club to jump 11 spots into a tie for 11th with a two-under aggregate of 214.

The 25-year-old from Nairn was lying 98th on the money-list heading into the season-ending event in the UAE and needs to climb into the top 80 to escape a return to the Qualifying School in Morocco. MacDonald is around £4,650 behind the player currently in 80th place, Australian Bree Arthur, and a top-20 finish would probably be good enough to see the Scot hang on to her card.