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Stephen Gallacher: The golfing highs and lows of 2022

Rory McIlroy's in action at The 150th Open at St Andrews. Image: PA.
Rory McIlroy's in action at The 150th Open at St Andrews. Image: PA.

It has been a rollercoaster 12 months for golf this year with plenty of highs and lows throughout 2022.

The highlight of the year has to be the 150th Open at St Andrews which lived up to all expectations.

I’m sure the R&A felt under an enormous pressure to deliver a spectacular tournament to mark the milestone – and they succeeded.

It was an outrageous spectacle for golf with record crowds, brilliant weather and a phenomenal standard of golf.

With so much build-up to the event, it could easily have turned into an underwhelming major but the R&A got everything spot on. It will be tough for them to top that at Hoylake next year.

I know many golf fans will have wanted the fairytale finish at the Old Course with Rory McIlroy walking away with the Claret Jug but Cameron Smith proved a worthy winner with a spectacular final round.

Australia’s Cameron Smith claimed the Claret Jug at the Old Course.

Rory had two birdies and 16 pars in his final round at St Andrews – it wasn’t like he collapsed. He just couldn’t get going on the final day but that can happen when you are trying to win the 150th Open.

Challenge for sport this year fallout of LIV Golf Tour

But Rory deserves enormous credit for the way in which he has turned that disappointment into the catalyst for a superb year which saw him returning to number one in the world and winning the order of merit on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

He was distraught at allowing a great chance to win a major pass him by but the rest of his golf during 2022 was sublime.

He showed he is the best player in the world when he is in top form.

The biggest challenge for golf this year has been the fallout from the emergence of the LIV Golf Tour.

The low point in 2022 has been that golf lost out in all this and it meant golf was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Rory and Tiger Woods have both been very vocal about their opposition to LIV Golf Tour.

I can’t see the LIV Golf Tour going away.  I don’t think it is a flash in the pan.

They are only going one way and I hope everyone can get around a table and sort it out otherwise golf will lose out.

I want people to enjoy golf and get the enjoyment that I have had from the game. I feel the fallout from the emergence of the LIV Golf Tour can put people off taking an interest in the game.

A great year for Scottish golf

On a more positive note, it was a fantastic year for Scottish golf.

The Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Clubb was a huge success.

The Scottish Open is now a co-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour which has improved the strength of the field considerably.

It looked almost like a major field this year – it was the strongest field we’ve ever had a for a Scottish Open.

Rory McIlroy at he Renaissance Club. Image: SNS.

The Renaissance Club also got it right with the course set-up and they got the weather they wanted to ensure it was a good test for the players a week before The Open at St Andrews.

The Sarvadi family put a huge amount of work into enhancing the course and they want to make the tournament better every year.

I think this tournament is only going to get bigger and better. It was very well received by the golfers so hopefully the tournament gets the field it deserves in 2023.

Meanwhile, Ewen Ferguson won twice on the DP World Tour, Robert MacIntyre won the Italian Open at the future Ryder Cup venue and it was great to see Richie Ramsay’s hard work pay off with a win at the Cazoo Classic in July.

We had players such as Connor Syme and David Law finishing high up the order of merit.

Ewen winning early in the season in Qatar set the tone. I think the other Scottish players saw his success and decided they wanted a bit of that too.

Ewen Ferguson took winning in his stride

I also think Ewen’s reaction to his early season victory was hugely encouraging.

Sometimes it takes players a while to adjust to winning on tour but he seemed to take it in his stride and followed up his Qatar Masters success in March by winning the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in August.

Ewen Ferguson on the 18th day on a glorious first day at the Dunhill Links.

With two wins to his name, he was very unlucky not to be named DP World Tour rookie of the year. That accolade went to South African Thriston Lawrence, who also had two wins and a futher six top-10s.

There was a positive knock-on effect from Ewen’s success among his fellow Scots and hopefully this gives them the confidence and platform to push for a place in the Ryder Cup.

Ewen and Robert are playing in the Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi next month and they will give themselves a great chance of making the team if they perform well.

I think 2022 was great for Scotland on the DP World Tour but I’m hopeful 2023 could be even better.

In the women’s game, we also had Gemma Dryburgh claiming a breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour at the Japan Classic. She played superbly to claim her first title by four shots. That was a real highlight of 2022 for Scottish golf.

It has given her a great platform to push on and make the European team for the Solheim Cup and hopefully Gemma can make that happen in 2023.