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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


Johnnie Walker Championship put on ice for Gleneagles Ryder Cup year

December 21 2012

THE JOHNNIE Walker Championship at Gleneagles will take a year’s sabbatical for the Ryder Cup but return in 2015, the European Tour has confirmed. As revealed in The Courier on Thursday, the event will be postponed in 2014 due to logistical difficulties surrounding the Perthshire resort’s hosting of the Ryder Cup that September. The championship will return in 2015 and will be played as usual next year, from August 22 to 25. Graeme Marchbank, the Johnnie Walker Championship director, said that they’d made the decision “with regret but with no other option”. “The Johnnie Walker Championship is a major highlight in the calendar for Diageo and a key commercial platform for the promotion of the world’s number one Scotch whisky, so we are naturally disappointed to miss a year,” he said. “However, as the owner of Gleneagles and host of the 2014 Ryder Cup, Diageo is also working closely with our partners at The European Tour to help deliver a fantastic event and we are also working closely with the Scottish Government on maximising the wider benefit of The Ryder Cup to Scotland. “Over the next two years we will be focusing all of our efforts on the goal of delivering the best possible Ryder Cup in 2014, and we are delighted that in 2015 the Johnnie Walker Championship will return to Gleneagles in partnership with The European Tour.” Richard Hills, the European Ryder Cup director, explained that hosting both the Johnnie Walker and the Ryder Cup in 2014 was logistically impossible. “The magnitude of The Ryder Cup is such these days that trying to host the Johnnie Walker Championship in the same season would have compromised both events,” he said. The Tour had looked at re-scheduling the Johnnie Walker to an earlier week on the 2014 schedule but a suitable date in May and June could not be secured, with the preparation and construction of fixtures for the Ryder Cup due to begin in July 2014. Alternative plans to play on the Kings or Queen’s courses at Gleneagles or a composite layout were rejected as parts of those are being used for practice facilities. The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles has been a European Tour fixture on the Jack Nicklaus-designed PGA Centenary Course since 1999 with champions including Adam Scott, Paul Casey (twice) Edoardo Molinari and Scots Marc Warren and Paul Lawrie, who won the title last year. stscott@thecourier.co.uk


Comment: Gleneagles needs to be back as a regular venue

February 22 2017

The fledgling European Team Championship being hosted at Gleneagles is a decent stop-gap for what has to remain a regular venue for top class golf. Since the overwhelming success of the 2014 Ryder Cup, the Perthshire resort has reined back. The annual Johnnie Walker Championship event was discontinued, and there was a change of ownership of the lavish hotel complex. This new championship, and the Solheim Cup to follow in 2019, will get Gleneagles back on the major event schedule. But does the hotel want to have an annual tour event again? It should do. The Johnnie Walker was always well attended, proving that only St Andrews in Scotland is a more popular venue for top class golf. The advantage of the simple accessibility of Gleneagles to main population centres has been sharply illustrated by poor attendances at other venues where the major tours have visited. Gleneagles is too good, and too popular with players and fans alike, to stay off the rota. Hopefully the big tours and the hotel can come up with something again.  


Johnnie Walker Championship: Gallacher’s agony at Gleneagles

August 26 2013

Stephen Gallacher came up just short in attempting to retain the Johnnie Walker Championship for Scotland as Tommy Fleetwood claimed his maiden European Tour victory in a play-off at Gleneagles. The 39-year-old Dubai Desert Classic champion eagled the final hole to give himself a chance at his third tour title on a thrilling afternoon of nip-and-tuck golf on the PGA Centenary Course, where the easy set-up in the final event before next year’s Ryder Cup meant a barrage of birdies and eagles. However, both Fleetwood and Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez were able to birdie the last to tie Gallacher, and the 22-year-old from Formby in Lancashire produced the only birdie of the sudden death play-off, again on the 18th, to clinch victory. Fleetwood, who won the Scottish Open Amateur title and reached the final of the Amateur at Turnberry before he turned professional, calmly two-putted from just off the back of the 18th green to secure the title and the winner’s cheque for £233,330. Fleetwood and Gonzalez both shot final rounds of two-under 70 for the 18-under aggregate of 270. Gallacher returned a 67 after his brilliant 64 on Saturday despite his problems with a back strain throughout the week. The young Englishman came out on tour aged just 20 and it’s taken longer than he thought it would to win. “I’ve had a tough year, played quite well but haven’t even had a top five and then all of a sudden I’m a winner,” he said. “I played the 18th in the playoff just perfectly, I was a bit worried about how quick the first putt was but the other two guys were unlucky with their putts and there I was with a four footer to win, just like you always imagine,” said Fleetwood. “I don’t know where I found the courage to actually hit it, but it went in and to win feels just fantastic.” Fleetwood thought he might have blown his chance with a bogey on the 15th just as the race was hotting up, but it had been “claustrophobic” about the top of the leaderboard all day, he believed. Gallacher had come back from a triple-bogey seven on the 12th when his tee-shot found a sandy divot, he hit long bushes at the back of the green and took three more to get down. His modest reaction to his eagle was in stark contrast to young countryman Scott Henry’s just before, but Gallacher knew there would be more to come. “I had to hole that to have a chance, I knew the guys behind me could get to 18-under,” he said. “There was no point in celebrating because the guys could still go past me. “I would have taken a play-off on Monday, that’s for sure. On Thursday I was just happy to be playing, and even today I couldn’t quite get my posture for the short irons. But the only bad shot of the day was because I was in that divot and couldn’t play the shot I wanted to.” In the play-off, he leaked his second shot from perfect position to the right hand bunker, leaving himself a ten foot putt for birdie that wouldn’t drop. Gonzalez had an eventful day, shanking his second shot into a forest of ferns on the first and taking double-bogey, slowly battling his way back to get a share of the lead at one point with five other players only to suffer a bout of cramp in mid-round and require the attentions of the physiotherapist while on course. At various points in the afternoon another Argentinian, 20-year-old Emiliano Grilli, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, Brett Rumford of Australia, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and England’s Paul Waring as well as Fleetwood, Gonzalez and Gallacher had at least a share of the lead. Gonzalez fought off his cramp to birdie both the par-five 16th and 18th in regulation to force his way into the play-off, hitting the hole with a bunker shot at the last which would have given him outright victory. However, he three-putted from the back of the green in the play-off, missing for six feet to give Fleetwood his chance at the trophy. For further coverage from Gleneagles see Monday’s Courier or try our digital edition.


James Byrne keen to build on Walker Cup success at Northern Open

August 31 2011

Walker Cup star James Byrne starts his second professional tournament in a week on Wednesday and has set his sights on winning. The 22-year-old from Banchory is one of 15 leading amateurs in the field for the Tartan Tour's Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open at Meldrum House after gaining a top 30 finish at the Johnnie Walker Championship at the weekend. It's not just staying competitive for next week's matches against the USA at Royal Aberdeen that interests him. He said: "I think there is a chance to go and win. The top amateurs are not too far behind the professionals, even at the level of the Johnnie Walker Championship. "It is good opportunity for the amateur boys to test themselves against the pros, also an opportunity to keep building momentum towards the Walker Cup if I can get a good result. "Nigel Edwards (the GB&I captain) knew I was playing at Gleneagles and sent me a text wishing me well." Walker Cup reserves David Law and Ross Kellett may have something to prove this week in terms of their form, while Kris Nicol, Paul Shields, James White, Greg Paterson and Philip McLean are other members of the Scotland amateur squad to take up the invitation of sponsor Aberdeen Asset. Greg Hutcheon will play with Byrne but twice-winner Chris Doak has been forced to pull out. Stephen Gray and Paul McKechnie lie second and third on the money list going into the season-closing events.


Perth 800 celebrations will be rich and diverse

August 3 2010

A diverse line-up of country and sports events is set to give the Perth 800 celebrations a more traditional feel during August. The South Inch will host the annual two-day Perth Show on Friday and Saturday, with something for all the family including trade stands, a craft and food fair, competitions, exhibitions and a chance to see some rare breeds of Scottish livestock. On Sunday,the South Inch is the venue for the Perth Highland Games, one of the most popular venues of the Highland Games circuit, where there will be the usual events, including weight throwing, tossing the caber, shot putt, Highland dancing, piping and the tug-o-war. On the same day The Ride to Perth bike ride is being held, ending with a cycling-related festival of events on the North Inch and a buffet reception at Bell's Sports Centre. The ride will be an easy-paced cycle along the course of the River Tay from Kenmore to Perth, led and marshalled by experienced cyclists from the ByCycle group. Medieval times will be brought back to life on Saturday August 21 when Perth Racecourse holds its special Perth 800 Raceday. People are invited to come along dressed in medieval attire to enjoy the racing, plus an afternoon of jousting with re-enactments of King William I presenting the Royal Charter to Perth. There will also be an afternoon of family entertainment with the opportunity to win a prize for the best 1210 outfit.Equestrian themeSticking with the equestrian theme, the Blair Castle International Horse Trials come to Blair Atholl from Thursday, August 26, to Sunday 29. The annual showcase of equestrian events will include three levels of horse trials, cross country, dressage and show jumping. The Country Fair takes place on the Saturday and Sunday with displays, demonstrations, more than 200 trade stands and a food hall. To round off the packed August programme, Gleneagles will host one of Scotland's top golfing tournaments the Johnnie Walker Championship. Played over the PGA Centenary Course which will be the 2014 Ryder Cup venue the event always attracts some of Europe's top golfers, including Championship chairman Colin Montgomerie. It carries extra significance this year as the last event where golfers can play their way onto October's Ryder Cup team. This should be reflected in a high calibre field. The tournament will be held from Thursday, August 26, to Sunday, August 29. Provost John Hulbert said, "August's line-up of events reflects the rich mix of what Perth and Kinross has to offer in terms of traditional country sports and the ability to host major sports events like the Johnnie Walker Championships and Blair Horse Trials."


Johnnie Walker Championship: Paul Lawrie cements place as a Scottish great

August 27 2012

Paul Lawrie underlined his Ryder Cup achievement but also his place among Scotland's greatest golfers of all time by becoming the first Scot to win three European Tour events in his homeland. The Aberdonian continued his remarkable renaissance of the last 10 months at the age of 43, 13 years on from his famous victory at the Open at Carnoustie, by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship on Sunday. He barely looked troubled in the final round on the PGA Centenary Course, turning a narrow one-shot advantage into a four-shot margin of victory. Lawrie had one fairly meaningless bogey in a final round four-under 68 for a 16-under total of 272 to take the £233,330 first prize, four ahead of Australia's Brett Rumford, who was second here for the second time in three years. In a rare occurrence there were five Scots finishing in the top 10 in front of record crowds for the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles, just as the event is set to leave its customary August slot ahead of the Ryder Cup coming here in 2014. Lawrie was himself surprised to learn that no Scot had previously won three European Tour events north of the border, as he added the Johnnie Walker to his Open win and the 2002 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. ''I didn't know that, but it's pretty good isn't it?'' he said. ''Seven top 10s and two wins this year, this is the best I've ever played. ''I had a good spell between 1999 and 2002 when I was in the top 10 of the Order of Merit three of those four years. Certainly ball-striking-wise my game has gone up the last couple of years but this is far and away the best I've played.'' Lawrie thought that his ball-striking, always a strength when he is at his best, may have peaked this week. ''It's probably one of the best ball-striking weeks of my career I hit the ball so well,'' he said. ''I putted poorly today and still shot four-under which goes to show it's been a fantastic week.'' The presence of so many Scots towards the top of leaderboard certainly brought out the crowds probably more than the culmination of the Ryder Cup points chase, which has been a feature at Gleneagles for the 2008, 2010 and this year, but will switch when the Wales Open moves into this slot for 2014 and 2016. Well over 17,000 turned out on Sunday, filling the new amphitheatre around the 18th green, and a total of 47,375 came during the week. ''People ask me why I do so well in Scotland and it's because I'm so comfortable playing here and obviously I'm used to the conditions, even though the weather was pretty good this week and I might lose the 'bad weather player' tag at last,'' continued Lawrie. ''But it's also because of the support I get it's been incredible. Being the highest ranked Scottish player obviously helps but the backing I've got, especially this last two days, has just been tremendous.'' Not that the pressure of expectation didn't weigh a bit on him going into the final round. ''I felt it this morning , just a shot ahead of a quality field and a lot of people expecting me to go on and win,'' he said. ''I actually missed five putts in the first five holes, two-putted for birdie on the second, but I've been in the game a long time and you learn to just keeping chugging away and the birdies will come. ''I holed a nice one at the 11th and that's when it came around. It may have looked easy but that was a quality field out there.'' Photo by Chris Clark/PA Wire

Perth & Kinross

Ryder Cup tees up massive challenge for police

September 2 2013

One of the greatest security and organisational challenges in history awaits Scotland’s police force and its partners when the Ryder Cup juggernaut rolls into town. In charge of the operation will be Superintendent Rick Dunkerley, who has for a number of years been event commander at T in the Park. He was present at Gleneagles throughout last month’s Johnnie Walker Championship the last time competitive professional golf will be held on the Jubilee course ahead of the famous competition. While he and his team know every blade of grass on and around its greens and fairways, he knows the Europe v USA clash will dwarf every sporting event that has gone before. It will undoubtedly be the biggest operation since the G8 summit brought world leaders and thousands of protesters to Gleneagles in 2005. More than £100 million is expected to flow into the country’s coffers as around 250,000 spectators and many thousands more volunteers, staff, security and media join the world’s finest golfers in Perthshire next year. “This is significantly bigger than any sporting event we have ever been involved in before,” Superintendent Dunkerley said. Superintendent Dunkerley said: “The Johnnie Walker Championship offered an invaluable opportunity to learn about the venue, see it at the same time of year at which the Ryder Cup will be held and work with the same partners we will cooperate with in 2014. “Nonetheless, the Ryder Cup is on a completely different scale and it will throw up a number of additional challenges.” The Johnnie Walker does not traditionally require a huge police presence, with the emphasis on roads policing as spectators make their way to the event. Their numbers will pale in comparison to those taking to the fairways next year and with golf fans arriving at Gleneagles by way of park and ride facilities exclusively there are wholly different logistical challenges. “The Ryder Cup is significantly bigger and will rely on an extensive park and ride service which has required careful and detailed planning,” the superintendent added. “There is major and detailed work ongoing with our partners, including the Scottish Government and VisitScotland and in particular Ryder Cup Europe, the team at Gleneagles, Perth and Kinross Council and residents. “We are bringing the lessons learned at the championship together with those from previous Ryder Cups at Medinah and Celtic Manor and our own experiences of major events such as T in the Park. “There will be a big team involved in ensuring that the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles is a huge success and Police Scotland will be but one small part of that,” he said. The police have been heavily involved in community engagement with residents of Gleneagles, Auchterarder and surrounding villages for the past year and will continue to hold regular meetings to ensure that they are kept well informed. The prestigious event will take place over six days and encompasses three practice days beginning on Tuesday September 23 2014 and three match days on September 26, 27 and 28.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Johnnie Walker Championship: Ryder Cup runners show off for captain

August 23 2013

If Paul McGinley is looking for “horses for courses” for his Ryder Cup team there is a veritable stampede of them careering down the slopes of the PGA Centenary Course after the first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship. The European team captain was not half bad himself in the opening round at Gleneagles, with an opening 68. However, he will have surely noticed the preponderance of those who thrive on the Jack Nicklaus-designed track which will host the famous matches in 13 months jockeying nervously like the Grand National field in front of the starters’ tape at Aintree. After the first circuit of the four, Bernd Weisberger stood at the top of the leaderboard with Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez after a 65. He credits the loss in the interminable five-man, five-hole play-off here two years ago as the catalyst to him becoming a fully-fledged Tour winner and European team candidate. Ignacio Garrido, recovered from a bout of glandular fever that afflicted him all season, is another PGA Centenary specialist on six-under. Mark Foster, who went all five holes of that infamous play-off before losing to Thomas Bjorn, also shot 66. Ross Fisher, who has done well around here several times, and has Ryder Cup experience from Celtic Manor, is on the same mark. On a windless day, scoring was notably low and McGinley confirmed that he would be taking a wide scope of views on the course set-up from all and sundry. “I can take something for everyone, the guys who’ve played many times before to the young lads I played with today, Shane Lowry (68) and Danny Willett (72),” said the captain. “This is why we in Europe think it’s so important that the captain is out here competing, speaking to the players and getting their views and I’ll be looking forward to speaking to guys like Jose (Maria Olazabal). “It’s certainly different this year. The sub-air system means the greens are firm and running great, the drainage in the fairways means the ball’s running out and there’s less rough and it’s less severe. “I lost a ball right with my second shot on 15 last year but today there’s nothing out there. “I’ll be interested to hear what the guys say. Certainly, I’m only thinking about what the Europeans want, not guessing what the Americans don’t want.” The 68, while welcome, will not turn his head for a moment. “It’s one round in what has been a mediocre, poor to be honest, season for me,” he said. “I think I’m going to do what Monty did and take myself right out of the points list. You sure as hell can’t captain and play at the same time, that’s for sure.” Weisberger remembers two years ago, when he was in the play-off but did not get past the first extra hole, as when he first realised what he had to do to win. “Then I was not safe with my card and still needed to get the feeling of how it is to play for the win,” said the German, who has since won twice, while the PGA two weeks ago was his first missed cut since last year’s Dunhill Links. “It was definitely part of my progress as a player. You lose in a play-off, you’re obviously disappointed but it was a positive.” However, being back here a year from now is not remotely in his thoughts. “I don’t want that in my mindset right now,” he continued. “But if I keep on playing like this for 12-13 months, I don’t see why not. Playing well on the Ryder Cup course can’t be bad for putting your name up there.” Wiesberger did not make a single bogey in his 65 and youth got a good representation from two recently-touted young Englishmen, Ollie Fisher (66) and Tom Lewis (67). Fisher is still only 25 but has been out on tour since he was 17. The same is beginning to be said of Lewis, who is just 22 and struggled since his Open emergence at Sandwich, followed quickly by a win in the Portuguese Masters in 2011. He is presently 193rd on the Race to Dubai. “I don’t look at that, it’s too upsetting,” he laughed. “The win in Portugal gave me two years to learn, instead of doing it on the Challenge Tour and EuroPro and building myself up, I did it in the limelight. “It’s going to be better for me in the long-term, even if the results haven’t come my way.” Lewis has worked with a succession of coaches, including Butch Harmon, Dave Pelz, Bob Rotella and most recently Luke Donald’s performance coach Dave Alred, as well as his father. “I couldn’t ask for a better team, so I’ve got no reason to fail,” he added. Non-European candidates, include Gonzalez, who had seven birdies and an eagle in his afternoon round and Brett Rumford, runner-up to Paul Lawrie last year, who shot 66. Lawrie started with two birdies but needed another at the last to finish two-under, a double bogey six at the eighth costing him. The leading Scots on three-under were Craig Lee, Ramsay and Chris Doak, who through successive Johnnie Walkers and Scottish PGA Championships has probably played this course competitively more than anyone.