Seven Scots ready to go in European Tour restart in Austria
Craig Howie eager to take up where he left off in South Africa
It's taken trains, planes and automobiles, but a seven-strong Scottish posse are ready and raring to go as the European Tour swings back into action tomorrow after a four-month lockdown.
The Austrian Open, which is being held at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, marks the circuit's return from a shut down that was imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic after the Qatar Masters in early March.
Numerous events have either been postponed or cancelled over the past four months, but, with strict safety protocols in place, the European game is now set to join the US tours in restarting.
Both the Austrian Open and next week's Euram Bank Open in the same country are dual ranking events, counting on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour.
The European Tour fully resumes with the Betfred British Masters, which is set to be hosted by Lee Westwood at Close House, near Newcastle, in a fortnight's time - the first of six successive events on a new UK Swing.
A revamped 2020 schedule also includes the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in October while the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters and the Portugal Masters have now been added in September.
Among those involved in the circuit's first step on the road back is Craig Howie, who admits the last few weeks have not been easy but is now looking forward to returning to the coalface.
"I had planned to fly direct from Edinburgh to Vienna," said the Peebles man. "When that was cancelled, there were a couple of options, but I decided to fly to Dublin on Saturday night and then on to Vienna on Sunday morning.
"The flight problems were the tip of the iceberg. It’s been a stressful week or so getting ready to travel but, thankfully, it went smoothly over the weekend and I’m ready to go."
The 25-year-old made a strong start to his second season on the Challenge Tour in a run of events in South Africa earlier in the year, finishing 10th in the Limpopo Championship then 25th in the Dimension Data Pro Am to sit 19th in the rankings.
"I’m excited to get back," added Howie. "I felt like I was starting to get things going before lockdown, so I was obviously disappointed to have to stop playing, but hopefully I can pick back up where I left off.
"My game was pretty awful when we were first allowed back out on the course, but I don’t think I was the only one who struggled! Things have slowly been starting to get back to where they need to be, so hopefully everything will click into place in time for our restart.
"We obviously aren’t sure about what kind of schedule we are going to play in 2020, so it’s difficult to set any goals. My game can get better, so I’m just going to keep chipping away at each part of my game, enjoy being back out there again and I’m sure results will come."
Also flying the Saltire this week are three-time European Tour winner Marc Warren, Connor Syme, Ewen Ferguson, Scott Henry, Craig Ross and Chris Robb.
"It was tough to get here," admitted Syme, who finished second in the Shot Clock Masters at the same venue in his rookie season on the main tour two years ago. "I took the train to London then drove from there, so it's been a bit of a trek.
"It does feel weird, but it feels safe, too. I think all the cautions the European Tour are taking to make it possible to play feels good.
"I'm expecting to be a little bit rusty, but everyone is going to be in the same boat. I'm excited to get back playing and it's good to come back on a course that you know and where you have positive memories."
Robb, the 2014 Scottish Amateur champion, is set to hit the opening shot on the circuit's return after being one of the last players to secure a spot in the field.
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