Points make the ultimate prize as European Tour returns to action

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The continent’s golfers return to the job of manoeuvring themselves into position for next year’s Ryder Cup as the European Tour resumes at Gleneagles today.

The Scottish course is the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup, for which the qualification process begins next week at the Wales Open.

This week’s Johnnie Walker Championship is the Tour’s first event for a month due to big tournaments in America and the fact that money coming into the Tour is currently sparse.

But with points the currency of the Ryder Cup from next week, it is all about hitting the ground running for the likes of defending champion and twice-capped Paul Lawrie.

“I’m keen to get a few points up early like I did last time,” said Lawrie on the race to be a part of Paul McGinley’s 2014 team.

“I definitely need to get off to a good start, it helps build the confidence to kick on and cement your place. I wanted to get in José Maria Olazabal’s team because I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I knew how much the Ryder Cup meant to him.

“When it means that much to you, it hurts your performance, and I managed to get the balance right last time.

“It’s a hard thing to get right – I got it wrong a couple of times. I was desperate to get on Sam Torrance’s team and tried too hard and played too much and got it wrong, but I got it right last time.”

Yorkshire’s leading quartet are also returning to action at Gleneagles, with Sheffield’s Danny Willett playing for the first time since making the cut at the US PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Malton’s Simon Dyson had found some much-needed form in France, Scotland and Russia before the enforced lay-off. Harrogate’s John Parry – who is a place behind Dyson in 78th on the Race to Dubai standings – and Hull’s Richard Finch are also playing for the first time since July.

Sheffield teenager Matthew Fitzpatrick has won the Mark H McCormack medal for being the leading men’s amateur in the 2013 world rankings.

The 18-year-old said: “For this to come along at the same time as the US Amateur is really special. I had a fair idea that if I had a good finish I might be able to scrape it but it was great that it went my way. It has been an amazing few weeks for me ever since The Open and I am really happy to have achieved so much.”

Nick Ludwell (Selby) shares the lead with Royal Liverpool’s Ian Keenan and Abergele’s Stuart Runcie after the first round of the Leeds Cup at Oulton Hall.

The trio shot rounds of 66 to sit on five under par, one ahead of a Baildon’s Richard Masters and Martin Edge (Hesketh).