Move over Gareth: Southgate takes up sporting charge at Scottish Open

Matthew Southgate briefly led during the first round of the Scottish Open, and his 65 leaves him two shots behind leader Luke List. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

GULLANE, Scotland -- One way or another the wider Southgate clan seems determined to put a smile on the face of English sport this summer.

Gareth Southgate's World Cup journey of discovery came to an end Wednesday evening, his England team unpicked by Croatia on a heady and emotional Moscow night, but within hours, 2,500 kilometres west, just a few miles outside Edinburgh, golfer Matthew Southgate was taking up the baton.

On the burnt fairways of Gullane Golf Club the 29-year-old Englishman was banishing the disappointment of the night before, making five birdies and an eagle in his first 12 holes to briefly lead the Aberdeen Standard Investment Scottish Open.

"Nice one Gareth," cried the wags in the gallery, but the Essex man was taking no credit for the success of his namesake.

"There's no connection and I've never met him but I'd love to," said the golfing Southgate, whose first-round 65 leaves him two behind leader Luke List. "I had a 5 a.m. alarm call but there was no way I was missing the match. Gutted with the result but not the performance. It was lovely how the country got behind the team. There's 30 guys getting on a plane soon and we're all really proud of them."

Fellow Englishman Chris Wood returned an opening round of 2-under-par 68, but couldn't hide his disappointment from the night before.

"It's deflating," he sighed. "I love football and I love the World Cup and I really thought they'd get to the final. I sat watching it with a Welshman [Ryder Cup winner Jamie Donaldson] who threatened to have his Croatia shirt on but deep down he had an England one on.

"I walked into the player's lounge at half past six and the first person I saw was Thomas Bjorn, the Ryder Cup captain, who absolutely hammered me. But it's been a great summer. The scenes in parks have been amazing, but I've been away for every game.

"When I landed in Germany during the first group game my courtesy car had TVs so we watched the last 20 minutes in the back of a BMW. Harry Kane scored [a winner against Tunisia] just as we arrived outside the hotel which was pretty cool."

Wood had his wedges stamped with the words "It's coming home" ahead of this week and spotting them first thing left him a little rueful. He was especially torn that an even greater dilemma was not facing him.

"England making the World Cup final would have been a once-in-a-lifetime thing and we'd have been on the golf course [on Sunday]. Mixed feelings about that."

It would have been a remarkable scene for sure. Back in 1996, Laura Davies was playing the final round of the Evian Championship whilst watching the European Championship quarter-final between England and Spain on a mini-television. She was fined for doing so, but didn't regret it and immediately found the funds to pay up: She watched England win on penalties and then triumphed in the tournament itself, one of the great sporting doubles.

If the English golfers were a little bereft, there was a Croatian one with a smile on his face this Thursday. Before the golf, at least.

Vlado Heruc, the country's only professional in the world rankings (2,028th), was playing in the Gut Bissenmoor Classic on the third tier Pro Golf Tour in Germany. Alas, he found no inspiration from his compatriots and shot 9-over-par 80.

Back in Scotland visiting Americans took the opportunity to encounter a different sporting environment. Rickie Fowler's chef is English so the American's rented house briefly echoed to the sound of Three Lions whilst Matt Fitzpatrick revealed that his American girlfriend had wanted to see an England match in the pub last weekend ("It got a bit messy," he admitted, even though he stayed sober).

Masters champion Patrick Reed completed a late round of 65 and then confessed that he'd been concentrating elsewhere the previous evening.

"Being American I didn't have a dog in the fight," he said. "I saw some of it but I was watching Wimbledon. I knew when it was finished though."

How so?

"Well, I kind of heard a lot of doors slammed shut."