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Two Scots win and end long droughts
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie was the face of the European Tour at one time. Nearing his 48th birthday, Monty hasn't won on that circuit since 2007.
That might be hard to believe, but this is also a stunner - only two Scots have won on the European Tour since the start of the 2008 season.
Paul Lawrie ended that drought on Sunday, when he captured the title at the Open de Andalucia in Malaga, Spain.
"It's been a long time - 2002 seems a hell of a time ago," said Lawrie, who had six second-place finishes since his last victory at the Wales Open that year. I've had a few second places in there,"
The last win on the European Tour for a Scot before Sunday was by Richie Ramsay at the 2010 South African Open Championship. That title occurred in December of 2009, 16 months ago. Prior to that, the last win on the European Tour for a Scot was Alastair Forsyth's triumph at the 2008 Madeira Islands Open BPI, which was played opposite the WGC - CA Championship.
"Scottish golf always does well in all of the big amateur tournaments. We won the Eisenhower Trophy, which is the world team championship, a couple of years ago," Martin Laird said on Sunday. "But for some reason, guys trying to make the transition from amateur golf to professional golf has just not been working."
Prior to Laird's win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, there hadn't been a Scottish winner on the PGA Tour since 1999, and that was Lawrie's victory at the British Open Championship.
Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters champion, was the last Scot to win a non-major on the PGA Tour. Lyle was victorious at the Greensboro Open the week before claiming his second major title at Augusta National. He also won in Phoenix earlier that year.
"It's no secret that Scottish golf has been down for a few years after Monty's dominance," Laird said in reference to Montgomerie, who never won on the PGA Tour. "Now we have got a lot of good players. We just need to get up there and get experience, and to have two wins in one week is obviously huge."
There may be a lot of good players in Scotland as Laird suggests, but he is one of only four players from that nation ranked in the top 200 in the world rankings. Laird improved from 40th to 21st with his win.
Lawrie soared 122 places to No. 150 with his victory at the Open de Andalucia.
Ramsay, currently ranked No. 139, and No. 74 Stephen Gallacher are the only other Scots in the top 200.
Scotland might by considered the Home of Golf, but there surely aren't many great players coming from the hallowed land at the moment.
LEVIN'S LONG JOURNEY NEARLY COMPLETE
As the Scots will tell you, amateur success doesn't always equate into success as a professional. American Spencer Levin knows that all too well.
Levin started to make a name for himself in 2002, when he lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur to fellow PGA Tour player Ricky Barnes.
The summer of 2004 was a special one for Levin. He finished second in a pair of big amateur events, most notably the prestigious Southern Amateur, while winning three other tournaments that included the Porter Cup, an event in New York that counts David Duval and Phil Mickelson among its former champions.
Those three wins were just part of his magical summer. Levin also earned a spot in the field at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Thanks in part to a hole-in-one at the par-three 17th, he opened that major with a one-under 69 to trail the first-round leaders by three shots. Levin faded to eight-over par for the championship, but his tie for 13th place was the best finish by an amateur since 1971.
Levin turned pro in 2005 and collected three paychecks on the PGA Tour that year, but didn't earn enough money to keep his card. It took until 2009 for him to finally earn a spot back on the Tour.
In between, Levin split time between the Canadian Tour, where he won three times, and the Nationwide Tour. Once back on the PGA Tour, Levin needed to go back to Q-School to keep his tour card for 2010.
Levin ended the 2010 season with back-to-back top-five finishes and ended 75th on the PGA Tour money list.
The long journey to PGA Tour winner nearly happened in Mexico earlier this year, but Levin lost in a playoff to Johnson Wagner. He was in the final group with Laird on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but closed with a 76 to slide into a share of sixth place.
Levin's long and winding road from amateur champion to PGA Tour winner appears nearly complete, however. With three top-10 finishes already this year, it won't be long before he grabs that elusive first title.
- Saturday was easily one of the best scoring days of the year to this point. Kenneth Ferrie shot the 16th round of 60 in European Tour history at the Open de Andalucia, while at the Canadian Tour's event in Colombia, eventual winner Adam Hadwin carded a 62 and Trey Denton fired a 61 en route to a fourth-place finish.
- The LPGA Tour kicks off the major championship season this week with the Kraft Nabisco Championship. With just four events completed this season, it would be hard to pick a favorite for the event, but Hall of Famer Karrie Webb would certainly be in the conversation. She has won twice already this season and is a two-time champion at the Kraft.