Saturday 16 December 2017

Scottish pipes and Moroccan frenzy herald lift for Welsh Ryder hopes

Karl MacGinty in Rabat

THERE was more than a hint of Baltray bedlam or final-whistle chaos at the All-Ireland final as Rhys Davies was swamped by excited fans milliseconds after his final putt dropped on the 18th green at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam yesterday.

Unlike the explosion of excitement which greeted Shane Lowry's Irish Open victory at Co Louth last May, one suspects that none of the men, women and children who charged through the ropes to celebrate this gifted 24-year-old Welshman's first win on the European Tour were his fellow countrymen.

It was lovely to see Moroccan locals get swept up in the excitement of the Hassan Trophy's evolution into a Tour event but heaven knows what they made of the rousing efforts of a Scottish pipe band as they played Davies and his vanquished rival Louis Oosthuizen into the scorer's area.

At first, their rendition of 'Scotland The Brave' might have seemed a little incongruous for a young man whose Welsh accent is as broad as the main street in his native Bridgend -- yet Davies was born in Edinburgh.


This win, however, will be heartily welcomed in Wales as they look forward to next October's Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Not since Bradley Dredge prevailed at the 2006 European Masters have they tasted victory on the Tour.

Unlike Ireland, who had three on the team at The K Club in 2006, Wales will do well to get one representative onto Colin Montgomerie's side.

Davies, now 25th in the European qualifying points list, wasn't even thinking in those terms yesterday. "The Ryder Cup is way out of my equation at the moment," he said. "This is a very special moment for me."

Davies, overall fourth on the Challenge Tour last year, has made the winner's enclosure in only his 29th outing on the main tour -- 13 fewer than Rory McIlroy.

The Welsh youngster won in style. One over after three holes (and three behind Oosthuizen), he birdied eight of the next 11 on his way to a seven-under-par 66.

Peter Lawrie left Rabat last night with a smile of quiet satisfaction (not to mention a cheque for €25,483) after a performance which will make his 36th birthday celebrations in Dublin today feel all the happier.

Yesterday's faultless six-under 67, Lawrie's lowest score against par since October, propelled him into a tie for 10th on 15-under par with Gareth Maybin, who completed his final-round 69 with a splendid hat-trick of birdies.

Darren Clarke earned €7425 in a share of 43rd after treading water with a level-par 73 yesterday.

Irish Independent

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