SCOTTISH Open organisers are confident there will be no repeat of last year’s landslides this week after the Castle Stuart course held up to a full day’s rain ahead of the £2.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event starting today.
The tournament’s inaugural staging at the Inverness venue 12 months ago was blighted by bad weather as heavy rain caused landslides at two holes – the first and 12th.
It was cut to 54 holes, with world No 1 Luke Donald carding a closing 63 to claim the title with a 19-under-par total of 197.
In the aftermath of the event, Castle Stuart bosses decided to fork out £70,000 on a drainage improvement programme on the course and it has already proved to be money well spent.
On Tuesday, it rained for almost the whole day in the Inverness area and was torrential for a lengthy spell, but there was no damage at all to the course.
“We had a lot of rain last night and it was almost continuous for 24 hours but, apart from a few puddles this morning it’s held up very well,” said tournament director Mike Stewart.
“[It was] very playable and we had no real issues. We are very happy with the way it performed.”
Spectator car parks, which were already soggy following the recent wet spell that has hit the whole of Britain, bore the brunt of the downpours.
“One or two cars had to be dragged out from their positions,” added Stewart. “We just need a dry spell for the car parking areas to dry out.
“But, but from my side, course-wise that is, we are very pleased with the way it’s dealt with the rain.
“The forecast is pretty good now. We will get rain (some scattered showers are forecast for today and also Saturday), but it looks like it will be fairly modest proportions, if we get anything.
“It won’t be anything too serious this time, hopefully. We might also get a bit of wind and it would help. The way the course is designed it would play better with a bit of wind.”
While the soft conditions are certain to produce another low-scoring event, the course has also been toughened up a bit over the past year and, following all the recent rain, there are some patches of rough as well now.
“These are unusual conditions,” said Stewart. “There’s rain everywhere in the UK – this is what we’re faced with just now.
“This wet period has dramatically changed the rough. It has become quite juicy. You’ve got the long wispy stuff but, at the bottom, it’s quite dense.
“If you’re in the rough now you could be hitting out sideways instead of going in with a rescue club.”
Predicting a great championship, which sees Donald back to defend his title, Stewart added: “It’s a different set-up from last year. It looks better as the rough defines the holes better.”
On a day when the players stopped out on the course to observe a minute’s silence for the two RAF pilots and instructor killed last week after their fighter jets smashed into each other over the Moray Firth, organisers were encouraged with an attendance of just under 6,000 for the pre-event pro-am.
Australian Jason Day, runner-up in both The Masters and US Open last year, has followed former winner Mark O’Meara in pulling out of next week’s Open Championship.
The 24-year-old’s wife gave birth to their first child yesterday and Day has decided to stay at home with his son, Dash.
Reigning US Open champion Webb Simpson is expected to follow as his wife is expecting their second child in a fortnight.
There will be no replacements until the field size drops below 156 and it could be at 158 if the spots available at this week’s Scottish Open and John Deere Classic are claimed on Sunday.