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Tee to Green: 2014 was my annus mirabilis

Team Europe point out the flying pigs as Steve gets another prediction right.
Team Europe point out the flying pigs as Steve gets another prediction right.

For the second week in a row, you’re going to have to forgive me.

Being prescient has never been a strong suit, a bit of a disadvantage for someone whose job it is analyse sport. In 26 years of covering golf, I’ve previously managed to pick the winner on the eve of the Open Championship just twice; Nick Price in 1994, and Tiger Woods in 2005.

The first was reasonably impressive, even now. The second suffered from being bleeding obvious to anyone.

Furthermore, I have consistently advised readers to put a few shekels on Ernie Els and/or Darren Clarke at The Open for almost my entire time as Courier golf writer, with the predictable exceptions of 2004, 2011 and 2013, the years those fine gentlemen actually won the Jug.

But 2014 has been an annus mirabilis.

Next week is my annual hopeless stab in the dark column for 2015. But before addressing the New Year I simply must go back to the column for 2014, in which the hopeless stabs in the dark were, incredibly, almost all correct. You see, sometimes the blind dog does get the bone.

Europe win the Ryder Cup easily: Paul McGinley was so meticulous, and the team were so much better than the Americans that they really couldn’t fail. I did say that Scotland wouldn’t be represented on the team, but that was just traditional Caledonian pessimism.

Rory wins the Open at Hoylake: Obviously, many thought Rory would bounce back this year, so no great foreknowledge there. But I always had a fancy for him at Royal Liverpool, a ball-strikers’ course second only to Carnoustie on the rota. I did write that he wouldn’t get back to World No 1, but no-one really understands the algorithms of the OWGR.

Tiger Woods doesn’t win a major: I tip this every year now (and will do so again next week) gaining richly rewards for six years now. But it was a daring bet this time as he was coming off a great season, and three of the venues were places he had previously won.

The R&A admits women as members: To be fair, I really didn’t believe they would do it, putting it in the “things that should happen but probably won’t” section. I was in St Andrews last week and, four months after the announcement, the foundations of the clubhouse seem just fine.

Scotland’s amateur fortunes improve: To be honest, they could hardly have got worse than 2013. But they were really good Bradley Neil won the Amateur and Grant Forrest the St Andrews Links, the top two events in Europe.

New venue for the Open rota: Okay, I thought Royal Porthcawl might sneak in ahead of Royal Portrush. But it’s great they’re taking the championship further afield.

2015? Tune in next week.


My first Scottish Amateur as a golf writer was 1994 at Renfrew, and it’s a sign of the times that there were as many as 11 journalists reporting on the championship. A couple is a good turnout now.

Most of the guys there had been doing the job for 20 years, which immediately got me thinking `this must be a pretty decent gig’.

Of course it was, and still is. One of the 11, Jock MacVicar of the Express, is still working 20 years later at 77 while, Colin Farquharson, then of the Press and Journal, still keeps his hand in.

But most of these men who became my father-figures and friends are gone, and we lost another at the weekend in the Scotsman’s peerless Ian Wood.

Woody was actually winding up then, retiring the following year. But he continued to write his Monday column until 2011, and it was consistently the funniest writing on golf.

He had many classic columns, but the one relating the weather-beaten Scottish Golf Writers Championship of 1995 at Crail will always be my favourite.

Woody has fish throwing themselves on the beach to escape the churning Atlantic, and addresses the tricky etiquette question of whether or not to warn your opponent, lining up a six foot putt for a half, that his golf bag is about to be blown through his line.

Funny and wise in print, Woody was twice that in person.


I got pelters from some about calling the Q School a fraud a few weeks ago, but it’s purely the men’s European Tour one that I have a problem with.

That’s largely because it isn’t what is advertised, unlike last week’s Ladies European Tour School, where successful candidates get much more than the conditional “half-cards” given to the men.

It was a great one for Scotland, with Kelsey MacDonald, Heather MacRae and Laura Murray all winning their rights for 2015. It brings the number of Scots regularly playing on the LET to an all-time high of eight.

Credit goes to a number of sources, including the fledgling Ladies Tartan Tour which has given Scots players extra competitive opportunities. But the credit goes mostly to the women themselves, especially Heather, who missed out by just a shot last year.