Friday, January 8, 2010

Odds stacked against Laird and Ramsay stepping into the Ryder Cup breach

Just in case any reminding is needed, 2010 is a Ryder Cup year and in the run-up to Celtic Manor, Wales, in October, the biennial beanfeast will loom large at every tournament played on the European and PGA tours.

As Scotland’s stock in the professional golfing world has fallen alarmingly in recent years, not one of our tartan troops made it into Nick Faldo’s team that was defeated at Valhalla, Kentucky, in 2008. It was the first time in the modern era that even a single Scot had failed to make the grade and the chances are it will be the same story this time, even though a bright new horizon is beckoning for Scottish fortunes on the men’s tours after a spell in the doldrums.

Both have declared an ambition to make this year’s side. The Arizona-based Laird has even belatedly joined the European Tour as an affiliate member to make himself eligible just in case he bursts into the big time this season, starting this week in the SBS Championship in Hawaii. But both are realistic enough to recognise that their Ryder Cup 2010 debuts may be further in the future.

He also reckons the positive “can-do” attitude of Americans helped him against what he perceives as an all-pervading Scottish negativity that includes, perhaps, columns like this pointing out a couple of weeks ago that while the tee-to-green play of the European Tour Scots is among the best, the putting stats are grim.

Montgomerie has already made it clear that players in his side in all probability will have to be well inside the world’s top 50 to be considered and there are sound reasons for that. These are the players assured of starts in every world and major championship, the tournaments where the pressure is most comparable with the Ryder Cup 2010, where players will earn most points and have the chance to show their resilience.

As the SGU and the Professional Golfers’ Association in Scotland continue to ponder the dearth of top young players making the transition to successful tournament professionals, the answer may indeed lie in establishing a base in a warmer climate and recruiting a wide range of positive-thinking mentors that was the recommendation in the challenging No Limits report by Winning Scotland Foundation almost a year ago.

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