Why Calum Hill can go from strength to strength now he's part of 'conversation'

First Marc Warren. Then Bob MacIntyre. And now Calum Hill. The Saltire has certainly been up near the top of leaderboards in the opening three events of the new European Tour season in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Calum Hill and caddie Phil Morbey during the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

For both Warren and MacIntyre, a fifth and third-place in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Omega Dubai Desert Classic respectively backed up their victories last season in the Austrian Open and Cyprus Showdown as the former returned to winning ways and the latter landed his breakthrough success.

For Hill, a tie for fourth place behind world No 1 Dustin Johnson in the Saudi International was his best effort in 27 appearances on the top tour, having graduated at the end of 2019 on the back of three Challenge Tour triumphs, and don’t be surprised if he goes from strength to strength very quickly.

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“It’s brilliant,” admitted the 26-year-old of the tangible feelgood factor surrounding Scottish golf at the top level at the moment. “Bob is flying at the moment and it’s nice to kind of be included in the conversation after a good finish myself.”

Hill, who was born in Kirkcaldy and now lives in Crook of Devon, had missed the cut in the Saudi event 12 months ago, having also bowed out early in Abu Dhabi a fortnight earlier as he tried to find his feet among some of the big guns in the game.

After the circuit then came out of its Covid-19 lockdown, he recorded a couple of top-10 finishes as players competed without any real pressure due to their categories having been frozen until the start of the 2021 season.

That, of course, left Hill sweating over his hopes of actually starting the new campaign in the Middle East, but it was job done as he made the cut in Abu Dhabi after getting into that Rolex Series event and now he’s around £115,000 richer on the back of a brilliant performance off the reserve list again at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

“It’s just nice to play in these sort of events as the purses are so big,” admitted Hill, who is attached to Gleneagles. “They are so much more inflated than the majority of the mainland European events. Just to get into Abu Dhabi and Saudi in one of the last spots was huge and to then make something of those opportunities has been good.”

Hill admitted last week that he’d be “daft” not paying attention to how MacIntyre goes about his business and, for just over a year now, the pair have been working with the same coach, Kingsfield Golf Centre-based David Burns.

“He’s made a big difference,” said Hill of Burns, who also works with Stephen Gallacher, another of the Scots to make a promising start to the season. “There’s a lot of big changes going on and changes that continue to need to be made to allow myself to continue to improve.

“I think my misses now are not as detrimental as they had been and I’m not having too many very high scores in there as a consequence of that. My misses are now manageable and Davy has definitely helped in that respect, which is pleasing.”

Though totally different to MacIntyre in terms of how he comes across - one is outgoing while the other seems quite shy - there’s no denying they share the same hunger to get as far up that world rankings ladder as they possibly can.

Having put himself in a good position on the back of his two Challenge Tour wins in 2019, Hill has jumped 58 spots to 136th on the strength of his weekend effort, which came with one of the most experienced European Tour caddies on his bag.

Phil Morbey aka “Wobbly” was available due to his current employer, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, being sidelined with an injury and talk about good timing due to Hill’s normal looper, younger brother Ian, having headed home when it seemed unlikely he’d get into the Saudi field.

“It’s very easy to see the success he’s had,” said Hill of Morbey who helped Ian Woosnam win the Masters in 1991, after the opening round, and it was no surprise to hear that the Englishman had played his part in how the Scot recovered from back-to-back bogeys on the back nine in the final round to sign off with an eagle.

“Yeah, that was good and a lot of that was down to the big man, Wobbs,” he said, smiling. “He kept jabbing at me to focus and keep pushing on.”

Pushing on will be the aim of golf’s Tartan Army when the circuit resumes in Qatar in the middle of next month. And don’t be surprised if either Gallacher, Scott Jamieson, Richie Ramsay, Grant Forrest, David Law, David Drysdale or Connor Syme are next to be up there at the finish.

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