Morrison looks to cook up a storm

3/19/2010 3:02:38 PM
Africa Open - Round Four  (Getty Images)
Africa Open - Round Four (Getty Images)

James Morrison is looking for golfing success this week in Johannesburg, but it could easily have been in a different sport.

As England cricketer Alastair Cook heads into the final Test against South Africa, also in Johannesburg, hoping to seal a Test series victory, his former room mate will be hoping to make his mark on the Joburg Open.

Morrison was in the same England youth squad as Cook a decade ago, but then decided to concentrate on golf rather than cricket and this season is a rookie on The European Tour.

The 24 year old from Surrey has already made an impact with a fourth place finish in the Africa Open on Sunday and is now hoping to build on that at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

But he might also fit in a visit to the nearby Wanderers stadium if he has the chance.

"I was an opening bat and off-spin bowler and Alastair was a wicketkeeper-batsman when we roomed together," the Challenge Tour graduate said.

"Turning pro as a cricketer was definitely an option for me then, but when I scored 114 not out for Surrey Under-17s I was thinking 'I don't want to be here'.

"I didn't take up golf seriously until I was 16, but got down from 18-handicap to scratch in a year and after getting to the last 16 of the British boys championship went on a scholarship to South Carolina."

Five years ago he beat county colleague Ross McGowan - now a European Tour winner and Ryder Cup contender - to reach the semi-finals of the English Amateur.

Plus four by the time he turned professional, three trips to The European Tour Qualifying School brought no joy, but last year he finished 18th on the Challenge Tour and with 20 graduating to the main circuit he made it by only €5,000.

Fourth place at the weekend earned him almost €38,925 and a repeat of that would mean he had already topped his prize money for the whole of last year.

There will be even greater riches on offer in the weeks and months to come, but Morrison is keen to strike now because his current ranking position does not get him into any of the three Middle East events coming up.

Defending champion this week is Anders Hansen and also playing is his fellow Dane Søren Hansen, part of Europe's Ryder Cup team two years ago.

In the field as well are former Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie, Darren Clarke, Bristol's Chris Wood, who was last season's Rookie of the Year, Italian Omega Mission Hills World Cup winner Edoardo Molinari and last week's Africa Open winner Charl Schwartzel.