SCOTTISH golf has been handed a series of boosts in the countdown to the Ryder Cup after exciting announcements regarding the flagship men’s and women’s events in the game’s cradle.
In a bid to build on its success since the European Tour, Scottish Government and Aberdeen Asset Management became partners, official talks have started to extend the latter’s Scottish Open title sponsorship to 2020.
The three parties yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to open discussions about the event beyond the current 2017 deal, with George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive, admitting he would be “shocked” if that didn’t materialise into a full contract.
The event has grown in stature since the partnership was formed in 2011, the middle year of three successive stagings at Castle Stuart near Inverness. It moved to Royal Aberdeen this year, when Rory McIlroy joined Darren Clarke (2011), Ernie Els (2012) and Phil Mickelson (2013) by using a Scottish Open appearance to help become the Open champion the following week.
Next year’s event is heading to Gullane, where an increased prize fund of £3.25 million will be on offer, with the same pot up for grabs when it returns to Castle Stuart in 2016, before it rises to £3.5m in 2017, when the venue will be in the west of Scotland, possibly Dundonald Links.
“This is a very powerful and enduring partnership,” said O’Grady, speaking at North Berwick Golf Club, where a new 54-hole Scottish Open qualifying tournament will be held the weekend before next year’s event for Scottish players.
In another development, the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open is moving to a prime slot on the Ladies European Tour schedule and will have its prize fund doubled from £200,000 to £400,000. It will move from Archerfield to Dundonald Links on 24-26 July – the week before the Women’s British Open at Turnberry.