PHIL Mickelson has given his seal of approval to the rota taking shape for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which seems certain to retain its pre-Open Championship slot until at least 2020.
Staged this year at Royal Aberdeen for the first time, the event is heading to Gullane next summer then returns to Castle Stuart in 2016 before probably being held at Dundonald Links in 2017.
What happens thereafter has still to be decided by the event’s three partners but a return to Royal Aberdeen seems likely while the same will probably be the case if Gullane, with its composite course, also proves a hit with the players.
“Phil Mickelson came to (Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive) Martin Gilbert’s house in Aberdeen with First Minister Alex Salmond and myself on the Saturday of the Scottish Open this year,” said George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive, after opening talks to extend the current title sponsor’s backing for another three years beyond the current deal to 2017.
“He sat down and told us all what we should do with the Scottish Open. Luckily enough, it seemed to mirror exactly what they intended to do, which was not to try to take it to massive numbers of different courses. It’s better to keep it to around four because that gives players a better chance to get to know these courses.”
O’Grady hinted Dundonald Links was the likely west of Scotland venue needed to complete the compact rota, admitting next year’s AAM Ladies Scottish Open there would give his team a “chance to look at it” in tournament mode.
With the three partners having signed a Memorandum of Understanding at North Berwick last week, it is virtually guaranteed that the men’s version will stay in its coveted slot the week before the Open Championship.
That’s unlikely to cause any problems with players given that the last four Claret Jug winners – Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Mickelson and Rory McIlroy – all used the Scottish Open to prepare for the major.
“The French Open want this date and the Irish Open want it as well,” added O’Grady. “Someone [Salmond] has put his marker in the sand to lock up the date which suits us because the leading players want links golf.
“A big phrase used is links turf and the turf at Royal Aberdeen is links. I was personally a bit worried about Royal Aberdeen on the Friday night because the wind got up and, by Sunday night, players could feel they were a bit whacked. Mercifully, the wind relented a bit at the weekend.
“I spoke to Jamie Donaldson in Prague last week and he was saying that was the perfect preparation [for the Open] whether they played well or not.”