Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive, believes Scotland is the only country that could react as quickly as it did to find a new home for the Paul Lawrie Matchplay.
The event was scheduled to be held in August at Murcar Links for the second year in a row before the North Sea oil crisis scuppered that plan and Saltire Energy was lost as the title sponsor.
Instead, it will now be held at Archerfield Links after the Dirleton venue stepped in, having received the full support of East Lothian Council to bring the event to Scotland’s Golf Coast. “I think it was very important that the Paul Lawrie Invitational stayed on the schedule,” said Pelley in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman. “I’m not sure that what happened with it could happen in another country.
“I’m not sure you could find a golf course or a golf community that quick that could adapt and Archerfield is a great venue. The showcasing and growth of our game starts in Scotland and it was important that we were able to maintain that event.”
Won last year by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the event will once again be the middle one of three European Tour stops in Scotland this year. The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open returns to Castle Stuart in July before Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews stage the Dunhill Links Championship in early October. “Scotland is still very important to the European Tour and to the growth of the game throughout the world. It is a showcase for the game. The courses are special and it is part of the people’s DNA,” added Pelley. “I had the great privilege of experiencing Scotland with my family first hand recently at Gleneagles. We had the Frankie Valli experience, which is four seasons in a day. It was beautiful on the first hole, wet on the second then got a bit chilly before it was like summer for six holes.
“For me, when you think of golf, you immediately think of Scotland and that’s why we still have three main Tour events there, a Challenge Tour event and a Senior Tour event.”
As reported in The Scotsman on Saturday, the 2017 Scottish Open will be staged at Dundonald Links, Loch Lomond’s sister course in Ayrshire. It will provide the west leg which the event’s joint-partners (the Tour, Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government) have been looking for since it began to move around the country.
“I think the Scottish Open continues to be a key part of our schedule,” said Pelley. “For Phil Mickelson, of course, it is part of his yearly routine, which is great.I think it is important to focus on the players who are going to be there rather than those that aren’t. Rory [McIlroy], for example, is only going to play in so many events this year. We can’t be trying to determine whether an event is good or not good on whether or not Rory plays. The Scottish Open will continue to grow and we have a couple of exciting announcements to make on it in the coming few weeks.”