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Golf: Coltart steps off Tour treadmill

Andy Farrell reports on the golfer who refuses to cash in on long- awaited success
WITH a frenzy that would have brought glee to any self-respecting fly-on-the-wall docusoap director, the European Tour left behind the previously virginal fairways of Doha even quicker than it had arrived.

Within a couple of hours of Andrew Coltart winning his maiden title at the Qatar Masters, the travelling circus was bound for a brief stopover in duty-free Dubai, where the previous week's tournament had taken place, and then the long overnight flight back to Gatwick.

Most barely had time to unwrap another couple of sponsored polo shirts before heading back to the airport yesterday for a flight to Agadir for this week's Moroccan Open. Life on tour is both an exhausting treadmill and an exhilarating adventure. It is seductive, especially for the young and talented who have the prospect of also becoming rich.

But enough is enough for Coltart. "I have played 12 of the last 14 weeks," he said. "I am feeling fine, I could play in Morocco, but I am going to enjoy a break." A trip to Scotland, an outing in the Sunningdale Foursomes and five weeks off the Tour should do the trick.

There are two reasons for playing week after week on tour. One is because of good form: cash in while you can. The other is because of poor form: keep playing and maybe next week will be the one it all comes right.

In the last year, Coltart has experienced both extremes. Last summer he was chasing a Ryder Cup spot, started missing cuts - something of a rarity when he finished seventh on the money list in 1996, lost confidence - messed around with his technique and so the downward cycle went on. "I should have taken a break earlier than I did. There was nothing wrong with how I was playing. The problem was between the ears."

Forced to miss the World Cup, in which he had become a fixture for Scotland in the previous three years, Coltart instead headed for Australia and won their PGA Championship for the second time. In nine tournaments, the 27-year-old Scot won Aus$316,107 (pounds 134,000) and was confirmed the winner of the order of merit prior to teeing off for his final round in Doha.

Despite wins elsewhere in the world, it is this first win on the European Tour that could be the making of him. Coltart had three times been a runner- up, an experience he described as "sickening". David Duval can also attest to that.

Like Coltart, against whom he played in the 1991 Walker Cup match at Portmarnock, the American has constantly been in the "expected to win" category and finished second seven times before he won for the first time on the US Tour last October. He promptly won three times in a row, including the season-ending Tour Championship, and his victory in Tucson last month was his fourth in eight tournaments.

Both men are from golfing families, which probably made their long courtship with success all the harder to bear. Coltart's uncle was a founder member of the Thornhill club near Dumfries and his father a low-handicapper. Duval's father is a pro who made his debut on the US Senior tour last year.

Duval does not think there was any particular secret to his sudden turnaround. "You realise you can do it, but you just get out of the way and let yourself do it," he said. "It's just a calm you need to be in."

Over the winter, Coltart has worked hard, not on his game, but on his attitude. Calm has never been a word to describe him, but if he can continue to keep the red mists from getting in the way, there is no reason Coltart cannot win many more times.