x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

McGinley is left frustrated

The dank, miserly weather circling this Barclays Scottish Open yesterday was reflective of Paul McGinley's mood.

Paul McGinley tees off on the first hole at the start of his first round at the Scottish Open.
Paul McGinley tees off on the first hole at the start of his first round at the Scottish Open.

LOCH LOMOND // The dank, miserly weather circling this Barclays Scottish Open yesterday was reflective of Paul McGinley's mood. The European Ryder Cup player's spirit was already damp due to his ongoing struggles to qualify for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale next week, but it seemed saturated after he knocked a shortish putt past the final hole to finish with an opening 70.

The Irish player's one-under par effort did not seem a disaster, but he was clearly thinking about the errors over the back nine that saw him fall from the higher ranks of the leaderboard on a soggy first day . McGinley will qualify for the Open if he manages to snag a top-five spot on Sunday evening, but he believes his game is lacking the spark required to catapult him into the firing line for greater riches.

Despite his placid and jovial nature, McGinley struggled to muster a smile. "I dropped three shots that were hard to take," he said. "One spot at the Open from here is very hard. I'm miles away at the moment, and I need to play much better than I did today. "Of course, it is something in the back of my mind, and it is going to really hurt if I am not playing in the Open. "If I don't make it into the Open, I'll be miles away from a television, that's all I know. I really can't afford to be missing out on prize money of that magnitude."

McGinley will be horrified if he misses the Open, but will perhaps feel greater anguish if his Ryder Cup place is taken away from him. He has been a solid strand of the European team in the past three Ryder Cups, and sunk the winning putt against Jim Furyk at the Belfry that saw Europe regain the trophy from the US in 2002. He was thrown into the lake next to the 18th hole that day, but yesterday looked as if he would have happily tossed himself into Loch Lomond, such was the demeanour of disgust that emanated from him.

Yet he remains around the top 30 European players jousting for a spot in Nick Faldo's side. "I'm still right there for the Ryder Cup, but the only problem is that I haven't had a big week," he admitted. "I think my biggest cheque has been 120,000 Euros. You are not going to make the Ryder Cup when your biggest cheque is that. "I've not qualified for any world golf event since the Ryder Cup qualifying started, and when you fail to get into those, you are struggling."

McGinley feels that the defending Open champion Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia could repeat their epic battle of last year, but Birkdale seemed far away as the bonnie banks brimmed after the deluge. No sporting event, no matter how alluring, rich in heritage or prestigious, is ever sacrosanct from the rain in Scotland. The elements conspired against the opening round. The first groups of the day, containing players such as the former US Open champion Angel Cabrera, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, were forced to wait 90 minutes until the rain moved on.

That pushed the afternoon tee times back 80 minutes. It was not the conditions the organisers, or players trying to assemble some form ahead of the 137th Open, had envisaged. This event is lodged deep within the home of golf, but it appeared to be fighting a losing battle against the menacing clouds that gathered over this noble stretch of land. Scotland in July can be as wet as the UAE is hot, and the soothsayers predicting widespread rain were not disappointed.

Rolling hills shrouded the Loch, but it was rolling clouds that swallowed them up. Yet despite the constant threat of downpours, several men managed to get on a roll. None more so than Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who hoisted himself on top of the leaderboard with an elegant 64. Cabrera, all bouncing and brave, finished one stroke behind Jaidee with an opening 65, while Niclas Fasth and John Bickerton made 66. The former Scottish Open winners Johan Edfors and Thomas Levet joined Westwood on four under with Montgomerie completing a steady enough 69.

The later starters, including Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, were expected to encounter further showers in the death throes of the afternoon. Yet whatever their fates, one imagines they would have been feeling perkier than the mental mire McGinley found himself in around suppertime last night. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae TV: ShowSports 3, 6pm today, 5pm tomorrow