Rory McIlroy has dropped the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open from his schedule this year as he bids to stay fresh for both the Olympics and the Ryder Cup.
The Northern Irishman played in the 2014 event at Royal Aberdeen and was also due to be in last year’s field at Gullane, before injuring himself in a football kickabout.
However, McIlroy has already decided that he won’t be heading to Castle Stuart when the tournament returns to the venue outside Inverness in July.
“No, it’s not on my schedule,” he told The Scotsman in Abu Dhabi today ahead of starting his 2016 campaign by locking horns with world No 1 Jordan Spieth in the HSBC Championship.
The decision appears to be more down to the Olympics being added this year to a heavy summer schedule for the top players than McIlroy having been critical of Castle Stuart in the past, despite not playing there in the three years the Highlands venue initially staged the event after its long run ended at Loch Lomond.
“It’s not that Castle Stuart is too easy, it’s just not a true links course,” he said two years ago at Royal Aberdeen, where he made his first appearance in the event since 2009. “I mean, how long has it been there? Five years? Well, Royal Aberdeen has been there for hundreds, so it’s a bit different.”
When Castle Stuart was subsequently confirmed as the 2016 venue, general manager Stuart McColm urged McIlroy to see the course for himself and then decide if his views were the same.
“The disappointment for me is Rory has never been here, so I don’t know how he can say something about a course he has never seen,” said McColm. “Why doesn’t he come up and play it before he makes up his mind, that would be my suggestion.”
The golf event at the Olympics in Rio takes place on 11-14 August, which is hot on the heels of a run that takes in both the US Open and The Open.
This year’s schedule, of course, also includes a Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September, and McIlroy alluded to the importance of trying to plan his schedule so that he still had something left in the tank for that event.
“Basically from the US Open until the Ryder Cup, it’s going to be a case of week on, week off, week on, week off,” said the four-time major winner.
“You’ve also got the FedEx Cup in that run, so I’d say it will be a fairly quiet October at the highest level - I think a lot of guys will be taking time off then.”
While it won’t be at Castle Stuart, McIlroy intends getting plenty of links practice in ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Troon, the event’s first visit to the Ayrshire venue since 2004 taking place, of course, the week after the Scottish Open.
“I’ve never played Royal Troon, but it’s only a 20-minute helicopter ride from Holywood, so I will be going back and forth the week before The Open,” he said. “I might also play a couple of rounds well before The Open to better familiarise myself with the course.”