ROYAL Aberdeen is “ready to go” for next year’s Scottish Open after European Tour officials deemed no changes were required to the Balgownie course as it prepares to host a field set to be headlined by Rory McIlroy.
While the £3 million event marks the European Tour’s first visit to the Granite City, Royal Aberdeen has effectively been preparing to lay out the welcome mat for some of the world’s top players for a long while.
Originally designed by the Simpson brothers, Archie and Robert, from Carnoustie then later re-bunkered and lengthened by James Braid, the course has “kept pace with the modern game” through the Bridge of Don club engaging Hawtree & Co as its architects.
Work carried out by them – Martin Hawtree designed Trump Links International a few miles up the coast – has included a new green at the 15th, but that was installed before the course was selected to host the Aberdeen Asset Management-backed event.
“The course is ready to go,” head professional David Ross told The Scotsman. “The European Tour have been here every three months or so this year and are extremely happy with it, which is a great accolade.
“We put a new green in at the 15th a couple of years ago. moving it back 10-15 yards and also raising it up by about a metre, but that was only because it was well over 100 years old. The only alterations for the Scottish Open are very minor – the tees at the tenth and 12th are being enlarged so they can accommodate groups better – and don’t lengthen the course.”
McIlroy, who didn’t play in the Scottish Open during its three-year stint at Castle Stuart, has restored the event to his 2014 schedule and is set to be joined by a host of other big names next July.
Phil Mickelson will definitely be defending the title he won the week before also being crowned as Open champion, while the Royal Aberdeen field could also include current US Open title-holder Justin Rose as well as Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood. “It already looks as though there is going to be a good, strong field and these are certainly exciting times for Royal Aberdeen,” added Ross. “Hopefully we can give the players a good test to go into the next week [the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool].”
One player licking his lips at the prospect of Royal Aberdeen staging the Scottish Open is Richie Ramsay, who flew the flag for the club in his amateur days, the highlight of which was winning the US Amateur Championship in 2006.
“The Scottish Open will be massive for the city,” he declared. “I was up at Royal Aberdeen a few weeks ago and the course looks in good condition. Royal Aberdeen is a proper links course like Royal Portrush. It’s a little bit tighter than Castle Stuart. You won’t be able to bomb it.
“The changes they’ve made in recent years, not specifically for the Scottish Open, have been aimed at trying to make it better and lengthening it here and there.
“I think Royal Aberdeen is an unbelievably good course, which means you need to be very wary of what you do to it. They’ve done some great things – the change on 15, for example – but some that were really poor. The 13th is the weakest hole on the course, but going forward they have an opportunity to change it.
“If I had the opportunity to offer any suggestions for an event like the Scottish Open, I’d love to do it. Maybe Paul [Lawrie] would have an opinion. If so, I think you need to take that on board.”
Having signed off his 2013 campaign with an eight-under-par 64 to secure a top-20 finish in the Turkish Airlines Open, Ramsay is counting the days to the start of his new season in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship in mid-January.
“In the last 36 holes in Turkey, I’d say, for 27 of them, I had the most control I’ve had on the ball for a long while,” said the two-times Tour winner. “I was 15-under and I felt I didn’t get the most out of my game – that can only mean good things.
“It comes down to two words – hard work. It gets you everywhere. There’s no short cut in life, no way around it. I put in the work, having made some changes with my coach Ian Rae, and the results are starting to show.”
Chipping and putting will be the main focus for Ramsay as he prepares to head out to Atlanta to spend some time at the Golf Club of Georgia before moving on to Minnesota, his wife Angela’s home state. “We’re spending Christmas with the in-laws but I might not be able to get out of there because of the snow,” he joked.