Scottish resurgence on European Tour gathers pace in Abu Dhabi

The Scots are definitely stirring on the European Tour. Continuing a trend that has been established since the start of the new season, the Saltire is prominent on the leaderboard at the halfway stage in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Scott Jamieson places the ball on the 16th green during his second-round 66 in Abu Dhabi. Picture: Martin Dokoupil/AP
Scott Jamieson places the ball on the 16th green during his second-round 66 in Abu Dhabi. Picture: Martin Dokoupil/AP

Taking up where he left off when getting himself in the mix in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa last month, Scott Jamieson sits joint-fifth, three shots behind leader Shane Lowry, in the $7 million Rolex Series event after opening rounds of 69 and 66 for a nine-under total at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Grant Forrest, one of the four Scottish newcomers on the circuit this season after graduating from the Challenge Tour, is also in the top 10. His second-round 65 was the joint-best of the day, leaving him just four off the pace.

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Richie Ramsay, in his first outing since mid-October, and Bob MacIntyre, another of the Scottish rookies, also made the cut, adding to a genuine feeling of optimism about things starting to look up again for the home of golf on the circuit.

Florida-based Jamieson has been quick out of the blocks in both rounds. Three-under after four on Wednesday, the 35-year-old reeled off four birdies on the spin from the second on day two. “If that keeps up, I’ll be happy,” he said, smiling.

After finishing a career-best 26th in the Race to Dubai in 2017, he slipped to 109th last season, cutting it fine in terms of hanging on to his card. That coincided with a worrying time at home. Twenty weeks into a preganancy, Jamieson and his wife Natalie discovered that their third baby had a suspected congenital heart defect that required postnatal surgery after he was born.

Jamieson’s form on the golf course in the six rounds he’s played since that proved successful - baby Max is progressing well - indicate a man with his mind back on the job again. “I think I’m certainly in a freer place mentally than when things were going on at home and my situation on the Order of Merit,” he admitted. “It’s nice to get off to a good start to the new season, so hopefully I can keep it going.”

Forrest finished joint-seventh in Mauritius in just his second event as a European Tour card holder. He shot a 65 in that event and sparked a repeat of that score with a burst of five straight birdies at the turn. The 25-year-old added two more, one from out of a bunker at the par-3 15th, in a brilliant bogey-free effort.

“I’m happy with how I played and to get a 65 round here is a dream, really,” said Forrest, who finished second on three occasions last year on the second-tier circuit as he earned his seat at the top table. “I didn’t play my best stuff yesterday but ground it out and managed to get round in under par. Going out today my aim was to keep giving myself chances and I certainly did that, missing just one green and hitting a lot of shots within 15 feet.”

Asked about his expectations in 2019, he replied: “It’s always to win. I came close three times, had three seconds on the Challenge Tour last year, so hopefully I can break the deadlock at some point this year.” Jamieson, for one, is delighted to see the likes of Forrest and MacIntyre, who is only 22, looking as though they feel at home on the circuit. “It is great to see as I was fed up with you reporting on me being the youngest Scot on the tour,” he quipped to this correspondent. “That was fine if I was 25 - but not when I’m 35!”

Ramsay (70) is on one four-under, a shot ahead of MacIntyre (71). “The new boys have given us all a little nudge,” admitted Ramsay. “It’s been great to see the Saltire up there and hopefully that is going to continue.”

David Drysdale agonisingly missed the cut by a single shot on two-under, while there were also early exits for Liam Johnston, Stephen Gallacher and David Law.