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Former player Wood migrates home for Ryder Cup with just one grouse

Birdies, eagles, albatrosses, perhaps the odd duck hook?

Golf is a game of feathered friends and fiends that can have you cooing like a delighted pigeon on a massage table one minute and squawking in agony like a pirate's parrot that has just been tickled by Captain Hook the next.

Some take the ornithological aspect of this Royal & Ancient pursuit a wee bit further, of course. "I'm still doing the birdwatching," says Norman Wood, the former Ryder Cup player who is equally at home peering at the nesting habits of a black-necked grebe as he is gazing at the undulating line of a tricky 12-footer. "I'm not a twitcher though," he says. "As soon as they get word there is a rare bird going around they are on planes and trains trying to spot it. I'm not quite at that stage."

Based on Guernsey for the past 30-odd years, Prestonpans exile Wood will return to his Scottish nest in September to take in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Since playing in the 1975 match at Laurel Valley, the 67-year-old has been to only one and that, to keep the bird-related theme going, is something that sticks in his craw ahead of the biennial contest's return to the home of golf for the first time since 1973.

"I have a caravan booked in Pitlochry this year; you can hardly find any accommodation," said the former Italian Open winner. "They invited the ex-Ryder Cup players to The Belfry in 2002 and put us up; they had a special suite on the first tee for us. I don't know why they don't recognise the past players now.

"I think there have only been about 20 Scottish Ryder Cup players ever. It's a tiny number really. A few of them are not here any more of course and I don't think it would cost too much in the grand scheme. It does grate a little bit. You've played for your country and you struggle to get a ticket. It's desperate, really."

Great Britain & Ireland may have lost the 1975 match 21-11 to a star-studded USA side but Wood continues to dine out on his singles success. Beating a certain Lee Trevino 2 and 1 was not a bad scalp to claim, after all.

"I get asked about the Ryder Cup maybe every other day," Wood said with a smile. "I would come home and people would say 'wow, you beat Lee Trevino'. He never said a single word during the first eight holes of our match until I went one up. It was like someone pressed a switch. Yak, yak, yak, yak all the way. It almost made me more determined to beat him. He was just playing up to the crowd. You were on the tee and the galleries were all giggling and laughing.

"It was gamesmanship on his part and it was offputting. When it was over he shook my hand as quickly as he could, jumped in a buggy, and I never spoke to him again. Back in those days, the Americans were winning the Ryder Cup all the time but it was still big and the crowds were just as partisan.

"I remember playing a short hole over water and as soon as my ball got airborne off the tee the crowd were all shouting 'get in the water, get in the water'. I thought I was going to kill them. It was really fought-for then but it's huge now."

With Europe winning seven of the last nine Ryder Cup meetings, it is American successes that are the lesser-spotted these days. The birdwatching Wood will hope he doesn't glimpse one through his binoculars this September.

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