IT’S been a busy old summer for us golf scribblers and I like to think that my endeavours at the coal face have been appreciated. “Nick,” sighed the sports editor with a startled acknowledgement of my presence as I shuffled into an appraisal with all the gusto of a condemned cow lumbering towards the gates of the abattoir. “From observing your efforts over the last couple of months, it’s clear to me that you’ve been doing the work of two men … Laurel and Hardy.”

Another fine mess eh? Anyway, let’s swiftly crack on with the slapstick routine that is the Tuesday column…


Utter the phrase “qualifying school” to a golfer and they’ll tend to develop the strained, tortured rictus of somebody who’s just found out that Liz Truss is the next Prime Minister. It may be one of the game’s more agonising processes but, after a hiatus of a couple of years due to the Covid pandemic, the q-school has been welcomed back with relish.

Stage one kicked off last week – a total of nine, 72-hole shoot-outs will take place over the next month – as the trek towards a place on the DP World Tour resumed.

Get over the first hurdle and you’ve only got a four-round second stage and a 108-hole final stage to negotiate before you get your mitts on a coveted tour card. Admittedly, it’s an arduous task akin to scaling Everest in a pair of tatty auld baffies.

For all its rigours, though, the qualifying school remains one of the great democratic processes in sport and one which offers hope and opportunity to all walks of golfing life no matter how fanciful some of those ambitions may be. Take away that hope and opportunity and you take away much of what keeps driving players on.

The decision to put the q-school into cold storage for a couple of years due to the pandemic was understandable amid the global tumult but for those trying to make headway in their chosen profession, it was a savage blow. Suddenly, the chance to fast-track their way up the pro ladder was taken away and the main tour became something of a closed shop. With schedules in the lower rungs of the professional scene decimated during Covid, there wasn’t much to play in and not much to aim for either. With the return of the qualifying school, at least the dreamers have the chance to, well, dream again.


All quiet on the West Course front? Not bloomin’ likely.

The arrival of a battalion of LIV Golf rebels at this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has been as hard to stomach for some as a ladleful of cod liver oil. In an attempt to make the defectors feel unwelcome, the DP World Tour heid bummers have barred them from playing in the celebrity-infused pre-championship Pro-Am – I’m sure they’ll be gutted about missing out on a five-and-a-half-hour slog with Vernon Kay and DJ Spoony – and warned them not to wear any LIV logos on their clobber. It’s all a trifle petty but here we are.

Martin Kaymer, the two-time major winner and LIV Golf recruit, said last week that, “there will be friction there, that’s why I’m not going.” The message, it seems, has been clear.

The old European circuit’s flagship event has attracted the names the top brass wanted. Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland headline a showpiece occasion which has sold out over the weekend. It’s the names they don’t want, though, that will add to the air of tense intrigue in this idyllic, leafy corner of Surrey. Imagine how deliciously awkward it would be if a LIV defector like Lee Westwood, fresh from a sturdy challenge in the latest LIV event at the weekend, marched onto the West Course’s 18th green on Sunday with a four-shot lead?

Away from the LIV-related stooshies, it will be interesting to see Ewen Ferguson pit his wits against a world class line-up. The young Scot is flying – he was pipped to his third win of the season by a resurgent Oliver Wilson in Denmark on Sunday – and he’ll arrive at Wentworth with confidence oozing from every pore. There’s not been a Scottish champion in this parish since Scott Drummond scored that bolt from the blue victory in 2004 but the tartan army, which also features an improving Robert MacIntyre, will be hoping to make a big noise amid the din of the LIV controversy.


One thing you can say about the LIV Golf lot is that they don’t hang about. In Boston, for instance, they allowed competitors to play in shorts as they cocked another snook at the status quo. A small, sartorial concession like that on the established tours, meanwhile, would require years of hand-wringing committee meetings.

To a casual observer, the strict trousers-not-shorts stipulation in golf tends to underline the perception that this game is as stuffy as a taxidermist with blocked sinuses. It’s only shorts we’re talking about, but the fact players wearing shorts still generates talking points illustrates golf’s lingering pomposity.