REGULAR readers will be delighted to know that my gammy back is not so gammy anymore. In last week’s haverings on this page, I explained in extraordinary and unnecessary detail how my dodgy dorsal was impacting on the production process of the column.

It wasn’t an agonising pain, more accumulatively infuriating; like sitting on a budget airline flight while a toddler continually kicks the back of your seat for the duration of the journey.

Anyway, through a mystifying combination of alternative medicines, ancient therapies, absurd quackery, illegal remedies and appalling expletives, your correspondent is back to full fitness. “You’ve no excuses this week then?,” chirped the sports editor as he anticipated a literary masterpiece coming his way only to be confronted by the usual garbled monstrosity that’s as awkward to digest as some of the more intrepid illustrations in the Kama Sutra. “I think I can feel another twinge in my coccyx,” came my lame excuse of whimpering desperation.

Talking of desperation, it’s getting to the crunch time for a couple of hardy Scottish perennials on the DP World Tour. Between them, sturdy stalwarts Stephen Gallacher and David Drysdale have racked up 1190 appearances on the old European circuit but their full status on the main tour now hangs in the balance.

This week’s big-money Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns is not quite the last chance saloon – there are four more regular events to come on the circuit after this week’s showpiece - but the clock continues to tick-tock away like that oversized time piece on an episode of Countdown.

While a new generation of twenty-somethings like Robert MacIntyre, Ewen Ferguson and Connor Syme are flying the saltire in the upper echelons and are all nicely tucked inside the top-50 of the DP World Tour rankings, old hands Drysdale and Gallacher, the Dunhill Links champion in 2004, are languishing at 178th and 201st respectively on the money list, with the leading 120 safeguarding their playing rights for next year.

Having made just 15 cuts between them from a combined 47 events this year, the form book of these two 47-year-olds is about as encouraging as the performance of the pound against the dollar. But the Dunhill Links and its home comforts has often been the saviour of many a Scottish season down the years.

In 2009, for instance, Richie Ramsay finished fourth to save his card while Fife’s George Murray’s third-place finish in 2011 did the same for him. Chris Doak’s fifth-place finish in 2014 propelled him into the safety zone of the top-100 on the circuit’s order of merit while Marc Warren got his full playing rights back in 2011 by finishing fifth while another fifth place in 2016 changed his whole year. It just takes one good week and all the other weeks of toil and trouble can be forgotten. Gallacher and Drysdale will be clinging to that crumb of comfort as they try to pull a big result out of the bag.

This week’s celebration of links golf features a star-studded field headlined by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry even though the celebrity-infused Pro-Am format ensures an agonising pace of play that’s broadly equivalent to long term coastal erosion.

In an age of all-action innovation and spectator engagement, the Dunhill sits somewhat uneasily in these rapid-fire times. With rounds creaking and clanking towards the six-hour mark, players and spectators are out on the links so long, they’re just about covered in a light dusting of stoor by the time it’s all done.

For the global golfing superstars, this can be a relatively relaxing end-of-season hit-and-giggle, albeit one that comes with a mighty prize fund. For those in danger of losing their tour cards, though, it’s a bit trickier to adopt the jovial, smile-for-the-cameras Pro-Am approach when your status is on the line.

Then again, the peculiarity of the format and the presence of amateur partners to blether away to while waiting on the green to clear may just be a welcome distraction from the week-to-week worry of peering at a downbeat order of merit position.

The likes of Drysdale and Gallacher will be hoping the links effect can provide some salvation.


The first event this wet-behind-the-ears scribe covered as a fledgling golf reporter some 22 years ago was the Wishaw 36-hole Pro-Am on the Tartan Tour. The man who won it had been around the scene a bit longer. Russell Weir, who sadly passed away last week at the age of 71, was closing in on 50 when he won that particular title but the advancing years were never a barrier to success.

A mighty figure on the domestic circuit and beyond, Russell’s competitive longevity and consistency was underlined by over 100 wins on the Tartan Tour as well as eight successive appearances for GB&I in the PGA Cup. His regular sprints for the last ferry home to Dunoon, meanwhile, after various events added to the Weir legend.

The long-serving club pro at Cowal, Russell was a great standard bearer for the values and qualities of the PGA professional. The tributes that have been made in recent days speak volumes for him as a gentleman and a golfer and his life and times will be rightly cherished.