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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Scottish Golf is now using all our resources, heritage and human

Grace Crawford with the Helen Holm Trophy.
Grace Crawford with the Helen Holm Trophy.

I don’t think we should underplay a rare Scottish victory in a national open at the weekend, and the return of a prodigal daughter.

Grace Crawford became the first Scot to win the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open in 20 years at Royal Troon on Sunday. The 16-year-old from North Berwick did it in grand style as well, a final round 66 on the Open Championship course.

It’s a significant milestone to maintain the progress of 2021, when Louise Duncan won the Women’s Amateur and Hannah Darling the Girls’ Amateur.

Louise went on to play superbly in the AIG Women’s Open last summer, of course. Hannah has since made a brilliant start at college in South Carolina, reaching the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Early returns for Matthew’s involvement

Three impactful young players, clearly improving all the time. It’s early returns for Scottish Golf’s recruitment of Catriona Matthew, our greatest-ever woman player, to an influential role in golf development.

And following on from that, the appointment of Kathryn Imrie as Performance Coach at Scottish Golf is another step in the right direction.

There’s an obvious Matthew influence in Kathryn’s appointment – they’ve been close friends since the junior amateurs. But she’s definitely the right person.

There’s her massive experience in the game at all playing levels. There’s the many years she coached in the US, not least her spell with the women’s teams at Stanford, one of the perennial powerhouses of American college golf.

But there’s also personality. I remember Laura Davies talking of the positive effect Kathryn had on the Solheim Cup team room on her debut as far back as St Pierre in 1996.

She’s brought that enthusiasm to multiple Solheims since, in an unofficial “helper” role and as vice-captain for Matthew in the victorious 2019 and 2021 teams.

Bringing in top former pros is good practice

Kathryn’s appointment and the decision to involve former European Tour pro Peter Whiteford with the men’s teams shows that the move to bring Matthew and Paul Lawrie into the fold was not mere tokenism on Scottish Golf’s part.

Instead, it’ll surely build on the developmental successes that have seen so many fine young men’s tour players recently establish themselves.

As I often say in T2G, Scotland may be the Home of Golf but we’ve no divine right to have an endless supply of great players.

But equally, we’ve got no business in not doing everything we can to make the best of our many resources – whether they be heritage or human.

Our next date with Tiger

Now that the fervour has subsided and perhaps his aching limbs are functional again, when will we see Tiger Woods next?

Officially, it’s going to be at JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor, the early part of Scottish Open week. That’s an established beanfeast of appearance money that’s been missing off the schedule due to Covid matters in the last two years.

A couple of rounds around the Augusta-like (at least that’s what the publicity blurb for the place always says) playground of the Irish billionaire shouldn’t be over-taxing.

One assumes he won’t fly back to Florida between this and The Open as he did before. So maybe he’ll be up for a pint and a dram at the Keys or the Whey Pat since he’ll be getting to St Andrews early.

But before then? There’s obviously the PGA at Southern Hills and the US Open at The Country Club in Boston. And there’s other favourite haunts, like Muirfield Village for Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament.

But why would he play three events in two months, on testing, gruelling championship layouts? As much as it was inspiring, I’m still struggling to imagine why he put himself through such torture to play four rounds at Augusta.

There it was different – familiarity, plus not much rough. US Open style conditions are hard enough for fit and able-bodied humans.

Sure, it’ll get easier for him in time. A schedule of five or six events a year will see him into his 50s, and he’s smart enough even to contend in some places.

But that’s for future years. A hit and giggle at Adare Manor and a week at St Andrews will surely do for this one.

And when will we see Phil again?

Perhaps more immediately pressing is when will we see Phil Mickelson again?

The only thing we know for sure about Phil’s absence is that he texted Masters chairman Fred Ridley to say he wouldn’t be at Augusta.

Also he didn’t return Bryson DeChambeau and Alan Shipnuck’s calls. Obviously Shippers is in the doghouse after the pre-release of the book excerpts, but what’s poor Bryson done?

We’re now four weeks away from the PGA. It seems unthinkable Phil won’t be there to defend the Wanamaker after his triumph last year.

Of course, he might be banned – the PGA Tour don’t release details of disciplinary measures. He might be in rehab or therapy of some kind. He did make reference to personal issues he needed to address in his `apology’ prior to going into hiding.

But there’s nothing to stop him playing the PGA or US Open, or indeed The Open. He has registered for Boston – so has Tiger – but that’s simply a formality.

Perhaps Phil’s just waiting for it all to blow over a little. As his exile continues, one can certainly sense the golfing public shifting to a more sympathetic viewpoint.

Hiring lawyers to plot a destabilising of the Tour was very, very  naughty.  But supposedly there were three players involved, and Phil’s taking the rap alone.

And it didn’t eventually happen. He can’t be pilloried forever.

Hopefully he goes to the PGA and all the madness takes place there. Then, we’ll be happy to see him at St Andrews, because he really should be there – not least because he might actually have a chance.

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