Sandy Scott has watched the likes of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland hit the ground running in the professional ranks and is aiming to follow suit when he eventually makes that switch.
If it hadn’t been for Covid-19, the 22-year-old from Nairn would already have ended his amateur career or been preparing to do so, but that plan has been put on hold due to so many uncertainties around everything at the moment.
The upside is that staying in the amateur ranks for the time being has earned Scott his major debut in this week’s US Open, having secured one of the extra spots that became available when qualifying for the rescheduled event at Winged Foot was scrapped.
Sixth-ranked Scott got in through the World Amateur Golf Rankings and is among 13 amateurs lining up in the season’s second major, the others including 2019 Amateur champion James Sugrue from Ireland.
“Getting into the US Open has been a nice bonus and I’m looking forward to it,” admitted Scott, speaking before he left Texas Tech, where he has enrolled in the graduate school after coming to the end of his four-year scholarship and thinking that his days at the Lubbock campus were over.
“It was announced in June or July that the top seven non-exempt players on the World Amateur Golf Rankings would be getting into the field at Winged Foot and I was sitting eighth at the time.
“As I was there or thereabouts, that’s why I wanted to play in the US Amateur (held last month at Bandon Dunes in Oregon) to play my way into one of those spots and everything worked out well in the end after I had a solid tournament.
“To tee up in a major has been a goal of mine since I started playing golf and I am really looking forward to it, having been preparing for this week ever since I got into the field.”
Scott’s among three Scots in the line-up, joining Bob MacIntyre, pictured inset, and Connor Syme in flying the Saltire at the venue where Colin Montgomerie would have been crowned champion in the event’s last visit in 2006 as opposed to Australian Geoff Ogilvy, if he’d found the green at the last from the middle of the fairway.
“I don’t know a whole lot about Winged Foot, though I have been looking into it a little bit and it seems like a great course,” said Scott, who played in last year’s Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool. “I’ve heard some things about the 2006 US Open, though I didn’t know Monty came close to winning.”
Contenders this time around could include Morikawa, who made a spectacular early breakthrough in majors when he won the US PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco last month, and Hovland, another victor on the PGA Tour this season.
Scott competed against both of them in both amateur and college events and has been inspired by their feats.
“I feel ready to compete and that’s my goal,” he said. “I’ve been playing in plenty of top-level amateur events the last couple of years to have a good understanding of what the level of play is going to be like, especially with guys transitioning from college golf to professional.
“I played with Collin a couple of times at events as our colleges crossed paths on schedules every now and again. He’s obviously done extremely well since going on to the tour and it gives me a good idea of what to expect.
“I’ve also known Viktor for a long time. We played against each other in the Jacques Leglise Trophy a few years back at Royal Dornoch. We are a similar age and played plenty of events together over the years and it’s also great to see him doing well on the PGA Tour.
“My goal is to be playing where they are. That’s what I am working towards and I hope to be ready when that opportunity comes around.”
In a great draw, Scott has former Scotland team-mate MacIntyre for company in the opening two rounds – American Kurt Kitayama makes up the group – and said he had a bone to pick with his compatriot. “I hear Bob calls me a teuchter, which is very rich for a boy from Oban,” he said, laughing.
The one disappointment for Scott is that his friends, family and college team-mates are having to follow his progress from afar this week due to the USGA tournament being played behind closed doors.
He has a familiar face on the bag, though, in his college coach Greg Sands, and is ready to give it his best shot in just his second appearance in a pro event, having missed the cut in the 2017 Scottish Open after qualifying at Dundonald Links.
“I feel I am better physically and technically and certainly mentally, so I feel better prepared all round for this test,” he declared. “I found it difficult to focus on the tournament that week as there were a lot of flashy things going on around me.
“ It certainly helped shape the rest of my amateur career, though, and I hope to use that experience to good effect this week.
“I’m just going to Winged Foot to compete. I don’t necessarily want to say I have an outcome in mind. I am going to try and win but, at the same time, I don’t have any expectations.”
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