THE upgraded Gleneagles greens are set to pass their big test with flying colours this week, according to new British Club Pros champion Gareth Wright.
After playing two practice rounds in preparation for his second successive appearance in the Johnnie Walker Championship, the Edinburgh-based player heaped praise on the putting surfaces on the PGA Centenary Course.
Criticised by some players in the past, they’ve all had a new sub-air system installed over the past 12 months, and Wright says it’s made a massive difference.
“The course is great, and considering the wet weather we’ve had the greens are nice and firm,” said the West Linton player. “The new sub-air system has made a tremendous difference – the putts are running nice and true.”
More heavy rain yesterday morning has left the fairways soft, meaning it will play its full 7296 yards in the £1.4 million event.
“It’s not playing short, that’s for sure, but I prefer it that way as courses that play long suit my game,” added the big-hitting Wright.
He has earned a place in the star-studded field for the second year running through his fifth-place finish on last season’s Tartan Tour Order of Merit. And, after finishing in a tie for 38th 12 months ago, Wright has his sights set on at least making the cut in Perthshire once again.
“I enjoy both the course and the resort here,” said the Welshman. “My aim is to play as good as I can and if I can pick up another cheque that would be ideal.”
His confidence is certainly high, having claimed a notable success in lifting the Glenmuir Club Professional Championship at Carden Park a fortnight ago. The 30-year-old signed off with a superb seven-under to claim the £10,000 top prize – as well as the use of a Peugeot car for a year – by four shots.
“It has got to be the biggest win of my career,” said Wright, of that triumph. “It has also opened doors to other things.”
A possible debut, for instance, in next year’s PGA Cup, the club pros’ equivalent of the Ryder Cup, at Slaley Hall in Northumberland.
“That would be great as it has been one of my goals,” he admitted. “I’m also into the Titleist Play-Offs at the end of the season and get into final qualifying for The Open next year.”
Wright’s stepfather, West Linton pro Ian, caddied for him in practice this week, but Scott Walker, one of the club’s stalwarts, will be on the bag when the gun goes off tomorrow.
“Having my stepdad here for a couple of days has been good as he’s also my coach so has been keeping an eye on my swing,” said Wright.
“It has also meant that Scotty will be fully fit for the tournament as I don’t think carrying a big heavy bag is his favourite thing in life!”
Also in the Tartan Tour contingent at Gleneagles is David Patrick, who got a taste of European Tour action earlier in the year when he received an 11th-hour call up to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Like Wright, his target will be trying to make the cut, but, for the likes of Stephen Gallacher and David Drysdale, the title and a £233,330 winner’s cheque is firmly in their sights.
Gallacher has a good track record at the Perthshire venue, having been tenth and 14th in 2008 and 2010 before finishing in a tie for sixth behind Thomas Bjorn 12 months ago.
The Bathgate man heads into the event lying 39th in the Race to Dubai and will be looking to stage a strong finish to the season.
So, too, will Drysdale, who is sitting 48th on the money-list and is on course for his best-ever season on the European Tour.
This week’s event has added spice due to it being the final counting tournament for the European Ryder Cup team.
But, with nine of the ten automatic spots already locked in, only Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts has the chance of securing a spot on Sunday in the same dramatic way as Edoardo Molinari did when winning the event two years ago.
Colsaerts needs to at least finish in a tie for second, but with no more than two others, to knock Martin Kaymer out of tenth position.
The Lothians contingent has been bolstered by Lloyd Saltman after a late withdrawal opened up a spot for the Archerfield ace.