John Huggan: Scottish players in European Tour

WITH the 2014 European Tour season already (and illogically) under way in South Africa, it is time to take a look at how it all went during what is euphemistically called the “2013 season”.
Stephen Gallacher won in the Gulf in February on his way to 19th place in the Race to Dubai. Picture: GettyStephen Gallacher won in the Gulf in February on his way to 19th place in the Race to Dubai. Picture: Getty
Stephen Gallacher won in the Gulf in February on his way to 19th place in the Race to Dubai. Picture: Getty

For the 11 Scots involved, it was a year of decidedly mixed fortunes. Some did well – very well in the case of Stephen Gallacher – while others clearly have some room for improvement.

Here’s how they got on.

Stephen Gallacher
19th place in the Race to Dubai, ¤1,173,315

Grade: A

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Up 16 places in the Order of Merit, this was more like it from Scotland’s highest-ranked golfer. Not only was his best golf outstanding – as evidenced by victory in Dubai and a play-off loss at Gleneagles – Gallacher’s level of consistency moved up a notch. Only five times in 27 events did the 37-year old Bathgate-native miss the halfway cut. Strangely, his numbers in almost every statistical category displayed little change. Except money – he earned ¤327,000 more than in 2012 – and putting. In 2013, Gallacher’s average on the greens dropped by 0.6 strokes per round. In other words, his 72-hole score was almost 2.5 shots lower in every tournament.

Scott Jamieson

31st, ¤966,321

Grade: A-

After a stunning start – first, third and second in his first three tournaments – Jamieson understandably cooled off a little over the rest of the 2013 season. But not that much, as evidenced by how close he came (in the third round of the Portugal Masters) to being the first-ever player to shoot 59 in a European Tour event. Just as heartening as his leap of 22 places up the money list was a continuing improvement in the 29-year old Glaswegian’s “bad” golf. Ten missed cuts in 31 starts is three better than last year and down from 15 in 2011.

Marc Warren

33rd, ¤925,854

Grade: A-

In a season that represented a continuation of the former Walker Cup player’s resurrection – he lost his card three years ago – Warren’s propensity to miss cuts remains a problem. Anyone good enough to finish second in the tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, should not be going home for the weekend once in every three starts. The problem can only be mental or attitudinal, for Warren possesses one of the most aesthetically pleasing and technically correct methods on tour. Still, as his overall progress over the last three years suggests, he’s getting there.

Craig Lee

59th, ¤581,828

Grade: B+

After clinging to his card in the last available spot in 2012, this year represented a huge step up for Lee. Yes, he missed the cut in almost 50 percent of his 30 appearances, but he crucially hit the couple of “home runs” every player needs to consolidate his exempt position. Fourth in Madeira, Lee lost in a play-off at the European Masters in Switzerland after shooting 61 in the third round. More importantly, he looked comfortable and confident under severe pressure down the stretch up in the Alps. Look for even better things from the 36-year old Stirling-native in 2014.

Richie Ramsay

70th, ¤459,252

Grade: C-

Admittedly plagued by injury, the former US Amateur champion disappointed in 2013. A year on from a second tour victory in Switzerland, Ramsay’s best finish on the European Tour was tied for ninth. Only three times did he crack the top ten in 22 starts. He doesn’t miss many cuts though, a tribute to the steadiness of his long game, but his work on the greens needs to improve. At this level, more than 30 putts per round is at least two too many.

Paul Lawrie

63rd, ¤513,307

Grade: D

By his own admission, this was a disappointing season for the 2012 Ryder Cup hero. Eligible for every World Golf Championship and all four majors, Lawrie contrived not to qualify for the end-of-season jamboree in Dubai. The problems were obvious. The 44-year old Aberdonian was the 154th “best” driver on tour. And on the greens he wasn’t much better – 119th in putting. Starting and finishing holes so relatively untidily is like burning money in professional golf. Little wonder then that Lawrie has dropped to 90th in the world rankings. Must do better – much better – in 2014 if he is to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles next September.

David Drysdale

80th, ¤364,721

Grade: C

If consistency were rewarded as much as occasional brilliance on the European Tour, then Drysdale would be a superstar. In no fewer than 17 of his 31 starts, the 38-year old Borderer made the cut before eventually finishing worse than 20th. But on only five occasions did he finish higher. That’s steady stuff – and clearly more than good enough to guarantee full employment during 2014. But it is also frustrating. It’s high time this talented individual showed he is a bit more than a mere journeyman pro. His “problem,” as ever, is on the greens. Eighteenth in “greens in regulation,” Drysdale was a lowly 166th in putting. The numbers do not lie.

Peter Whiteford

88th, ¤324,128

Grade: C

This was a strange sort of year for the 33-year old Fifer. Despite missing 17 cuts in 29 starts, he moved up more than 20 places on the Race to Dubai. Most of the credit for this heartening development must go to his second place-finish in the Ballantines Championship, the resulting ¤191,516 cheque accounting for more than 50 percent of his total earnings. The conclusion is obvious – while Whiteford’s best golf is clearly strong enough to keep him on tour, his “off-weeks” are not. And neither is his driving. Whiteford was 148th in accuracy off the tee. Enough said.

Chris Doak

101st, ¤261,507

Grade: B

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This was a good year for the likeably “gallus” 35-year old from Greenock. Not only did he qualify for his maiden major championship – the US Open at Merion – Doak for the first time played well enough to be fully exempt on tour. He did it in some style too, a gutsy tie for eighth at the late-season Portugal Masters seeing him safely inside the vital top 110 on the money-list. So far, so so-so, but now is the time to kick on. More than one top-ten finish would be a good place to start.

Scott Henry

120th, ¤197,601

Grade: D

The highlight of his rookie season on the European Tour was surely a tie for fourth in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, but inconsistency elsewhere was 26-year-old Henry’s eventual undoing. Seventeen missed cuts in 31 starts is revealing – especially when set alongside only two top-20 finishes – as is an average close to 31 putts per round. Still, all good experience for one of Scotland’s most promising young players. He’ll be back.

Callum Macaulay

191st, ¤39,125

Grade: F

His subterranean position on the money list is indicative of a year of struggle for the 29-year old former Scottish Amateur champion. It was ugly stuff. Only six times in his 20 starts did Macaulay play at the weekend, his highest finish joint 27th at the Spanish Open. Otherwise, it was a series of tough lessons, his stroke average of 73.37 (number one Henrik Stenson was 3.65 strokes per round better) stark evidence of an overall game apparently not yet ready for rigours of the European Tour.