As a rising young pro, Murray wore the Scottish flag on his wristbands. But he won his Olympic gold last summer at Wimbledon for Team GB, the marketing moniker used for the unified team of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and it was the Union Jack that was raised at his medal ceremony. His personality, though — raw and brave when he spoke through tears after losing the 2012 Wimbledon final, dour and self-critical after poor performances — speaks to Scots.
“I think a lot of the reason why Andy Murray is as popular as he is, he had those few years where he wasn’t good enough,” said Martin Laird, a 30-year-old from Glasgow who has won three times on the PGA Tour and will play his third Open on Scottish soil. “‘Is he ever going to be any good? Is he fit enough?’ He kind of battled back from that, you know, and the Scottish people kind of think of themselves as underdogs. Football, rugby, golf, we’ve always kind of been the underdog. That’s what he was, and that’s what they appreciate.”
In Dunblane, the appreciation is apparent at every turn. For so long, what the world knew of this affluent town of fewer than 9,000 residents had to do with a horrific mass shooting at Murray’s primary school, a spree that killed 16 children and their teacher in 1996. The town soldiered on, and Murray’s career helped bring attention for a newer, better reason. His victory over Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final completed that climb.
“It kind of helped get a better reputation for Scotland,” said Cameron Christmas, a Dunblane native and a waiter at Café Continental on High Street. “The reputation can be that it’s just a dreary, rainy place. This kind of picked up everyone.”
There are 10 Scotsman in the field here, each trying to do what Lyle did, what Lawrie did — in a way, what Murray did. The public expectations, though, won’t be for such a performance. Dunblane might be decorated from the cathedral to the school, but that doesn’t alter the basic tenets of the Scottish personality — pride in winning Wimbledon, pride in creating and hosting the Open aside.
“We mostly don’t expect to win anything,” Hay wrote. “If we do, that’s great, but we’re not the sort of nation that go around worrying that we’re squandering potential if by and large we don’t have any.”