"Three days of sunshine and a Scot to hole the winning putt," suggested Scott Fenwick with a smile as he dreamed the ultimate dream ahead of September's Ryder Cup. The ways things are going for the stumbling tartan army on the European qualifying front at the moment, we may just have to settle for that big, fiery orb in the sky making an appearance at Gleneagles.
Fenwick would be cock-a-hoop with that, of course. As the hard-pressed greenkeeper . . . sorry, golf courses and estates manager . . . at the 2014 Ryder Cup venue, he's never done gazing heavenwards and is probably on first name terms with each individual drop of Perthshire precipitation in his fiefdom.
"It's been horrendous, just horrendous," said Fenwick as he reflected on the dire December deluge. "We had 297mm in December . . . the average is about 112. It's quite strange but 2002 was the last time we had annual rainfall in three figures. This year was shaping up to be in three figures too. It had been quite dry but because of December we ended up with a total of around 1150mm."
Given the torrents from above, you half expect Fenwick to survey the PGA Centenary course from the crow's nest of the Ark but, with huge investment in drainage and sub-air systems under the greens, the stage for the biennial battle is standing up well. "The fairways are still bone dry," he noted. All the significant work on the course was completed a while ago. The winter months have been about fine-tuning and tweaking. For Paul McGinley, the Europe captain, that has involved putting his own stamp on the layout as the Irishman tries to gain an upper hand with the course set-up.
"Paul likes little run-offs and things," explained Fenwick. "He thinks the Europeans are better and more used to playing from tight lies around the greens than the US players, who tend to play from more lush, thicker stuff. He wanted to introduce a few swales around the course. We looked at where we could do that and we've now done that. We now have a bit of uniformity around the course on that front. The course plays well and there's no more big changes now. We're just polishing it off."
With the course all set to go, the next part of the mammoth Ryder Cup operation will be to install the various fixtures and fittings around the venue. During the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, a vast stand that could seat some 2000 people around the first tee generated a bubbling cauldron and the atmosphere whipped up there certainly left an impression on McGinley. "Celtic Manor is the biggest first tee experience I've ever experienced in my Ryder Cups," he reflected. The golfing gladiators at Gleneagles could be set for an even more boisterous experience come September.
"With what I can gather, the grandstand around the first tee will be even bigger than at Celtic Manor," said Fenwick. "It should be a fantastic atmosphere."
Ever since the PGA Centenary course was named as the 2014 Ryder Cup venue back in 2001, the long-serving Fenwick and his team have been counting down the years to its arrival. Now it's only a matter of months until the biggest team tussle in golf rolls into the Glen.
"I've been here 33 years and probably never thought we'd have a Ryder Cup on my watch," he said. "I thought Gleneagles would be a good place to get a grounding in greenkeeping and then move on. But things have worked out at the right time, there have been new challenges and always something to get my teeth into. I'd thought about moving but the right things happened at the right time.
"Once they started talking about a Ryder Cup, then that was a huge carrot to dangle in front of someone. It doesn't come much bigger than that. We've had our Year to Go event. Now, we're talking months and soon it will be just days. Hopefully, I can enjoy it when it comes"
And who knows? Perhaps the sun, and maybe even a Scot, will shine.