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Without A Bix?
From a Scottish viewpoint, last week's Weetabix British Open at Sunningdale had many angles

There was the success of three Scots finishing in the top seven, the frustration that none actually managed to win and the optimism that, perhaps next year, a first tartan winner will be crowned at Turnberry.

Overall, though, the feeling was that a great opportunity had slipped through the fingers. Certainly, Catriona Matthew, the leader going into the final round, and Janice Moodie, just one behind, both had great chances.

But it also shows how expectations have been raised that we expect our players to be high achievers - maybe it is a good sign that we are disappointed when they don't win?

The Championship - classed as a major for the first time - certainly was a great showcase for the four Scots - Kathryn Marshall (seventh) and Mhairi McKay (32nd) completed the quartet - who are treading the courses so successfully on both sides of the Atlantic this year.

After Sunningdale, all four are now ranked in the top 50 on the LPGA money list, with Matthew boasting a haul of almost $600,000 - which is already a Scottish record with many months still to be played.

For all four, the goal must be to finish in the top 30 and secure a place in the prestigious $1m end of season Tour Players' Championship in West Palm Beach in Florida.

The form also bodes well for next year's Solheim Cup. Of course, there is a long way to go.

But Matthew, whose controversial omission at Loch Lomond last year has undeniably acted as a spur this campaign, must now be one of those at the top of Dale Reid's list. She is the leading Briton at number nine on the LPGA rankings, and the third European behind Annika Sorenstam and Maria Hjorth.

McKay is the only one of the four high flyers who has yet to experience the pressure of the two-yearly duel between Europe and the USA, but Reid has long been an admirer of the Turnberry player.

'I've always though that Mhairi had great talent, and I'm even a little surprised that she hasn't quite come through quicker,' said the Solheim skipper of her fellow-Scot.

Marshall would dearly love to reclaim her Solheim berth. Passionate to a fault, she was a great team member both on and off the course at St Pierre in Wales back in 1996, and there is a suspicion that it was her desire to hold on to her Cup place that contributed to a couple of years in the doldrums.

Nowadays, the 34-year-old, who has been working with an American sports psychologist for over a year, is trying to be much more laid back about the whole Solheim issue.

'There's a long way to go before the next team is chosen, and there are so many good European players at the moment that I'm not even thinking about the match,' she said.

'I just want to keep concentrating on playing well, getting into contention and then the rest will take care of itself.'

With the profile raised by the Weetabix performances, the hope is that Matthew, Moodie, McKay and Marshall can keep Scottish women's golf to the fore not only over the rest of the season, but for many years to come. Our current top amateurs, and young girls just starting out on the game will, hopefully, have gained inspiration.

'If they can do it then why not me?' must have been a sentiment running through many a mind.

As for next year's Weetabix, it will be another Scottish landmark as Turnberry becomes the first Scottish course not only to host the championship, but also the first to stage a women's major.

It might just be a little too much to hope for - but wouldn't a Scottish victor make it all just perfect?



©    13 - AUGUST 2001



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