THREE-TIMES major winner Padraig Harrington has shot down Graeme McDowell’s criticism of both the Scottish Open and Castle Stuart, saying he believes “the world of golf is very jealous of Scottish golf”.
Former winner McDowell stunned organisers of this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event when he claimed the Scottish Open had “lost its prestige” and described the Inverness venue as “one-dimensional”.
Harrington reckons the comments were mainly born out of McDowell’s “love for Loch Lomond”, having claimed the title there in 2008, and is adamant the event has lost none of its appeal in the Highlands.
“You have to love professional golfers,” said Harrington, one of seven major winners in this week’s field. “We have our own different way of playing golf and this is not a golf course for Graeme McDowell with its big fairways.
“He loves the athlete’s golf course, where it is really tight. He doesn’t want to come to a big course like this where you’ve really got to open your shoulders to get it out there with your drives. I can understand why he loves Loch Lomond, especially when he won there.
But the week before the Open Championship we should be on a links course, no question about it.
“This is a fine golf course. If you want to be critical about it, it’s too good condition-wise. You’re trying to find some hard patches out there, but it’s really in awesome condition.
“And, for me, it’s a no-brainer with next week’s Open Championship in mind. You’re going to have to hit a big number of shots under pressure here and that will count for next week.”
Harrington, who narrowly missed out on the play-off off won by Ernie Els at Muirfield 11 years ago, was equally vociferous in airing his views on McDowell’s claim about the Scottish Open not being the event it once was.
“Go back ten or 12 years ago, when I first came out on the European Tour, there wasn’t the support and sponsorship they have just now for this tournament,” added the Dubliner.
“Barclays did a fine job, but I think the world of golf is very jealous of Scottish golf at the moment due to it having a blanket sponsor of the game in Aberdeen Asset Management.
“They’re not only sponsoring a lot of the top-class pros but they have also gone down to the women and the men in amateur golf and then into the youths’ game. It’s phenomenal support all the way up.
“We are also on a links course this week because the event has the luxury of a great sponsor. A lot was said about the Irish Open (held at Carton House a fortnight ago) and the fact it should be held on a links course.
“Well, commercial realities take us away from links courses in Ireland. If we had such a great sponsor as Aberdeen Asset Management, we would have a choice of going to any links course and not worrying about the commercial aspect.”
This week’s event is the last of three stagings at Castle Stuart before it moves to Royal Aberdeen in 12 months’ time. What happens after that is up for discussion but Harrington, for one, would like to see it return one day to the Inverness area.
“When you’re in the town here everybody has a bit of a buzz about the golf,” he said in revealing what he’d experienced when queueing for an ice cream in a local McDonald’s on Monday night.
“There’s a bit of excitement and, though there aren’t many venues I’d say this about, I would like to come back here as it is stunning and beautiful.”