So much for the theory being expressed by some that the Scottish Open field could be weakened considerably this year due to the Irish Open, with Rory McIlroy as its host, moving into the slot before the Dundonald Links event. Put it this way, former Masters champion and current world No 7 Adam Scott isn’t exactly a bad start for the Aberdeen Asset Management-backed tournament’s first visit to the Ayrshire venue, especially since he’s not teed it up in the event since 2009.
“I haven’t played a Scottish Open for a long while and I am looking forward to heading back to Dundonald, as I went over there about 10 years and just played the course for fun,” Scott told golfbytourmiss.com, explaining his decision to do things differently in preparation for the Open Championship this year was partially due to the arrival of his second child in August prompting some schedule changes later in the season.
Even though it didn’t come through the official channel - the European Tour marketing machine normally waits until after The Masters to start drip feeding names of players - no wonder it sparked some excitement at Dundonald Links as the venue used social media to spread the word about Scott having committed to the 13-16 July event.
The Australian, after all, is one of the game’s leading lights and rarely plays in Europe these days outside of the Open Championship. That he’s decided to make his Scottish Open return, having last played when the event was still held at Loch Lomond, is a huge boost, both for the event and its latest new venue.
It’s been so far, so good with those new venues since the tournament left Loch Lomond after 2010, with four stagings at Castle Stuart and one each at Royal Aberdeen and Gullane all having attracted strong line-ups. Phil Micklelson, of course, has been one of the star attractions on every occasion, while the likes of McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Louis Oosthuizen, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Danny Willett have all been in the field on at least one occasion.
So, who else can we expect to see this time around and how much of a factor is that new slot for the Irish Open, which is being played at Portstewart for the first time as part of a three-event “Links Swing” that culminates with the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale? Taking the last part first, it certainly has to have some impact on the Scottish Open because some of the leading players simply won’t want to use both events to prepare for the Claret Jug joust. That being the case, the main absentee in Ayrshire is likely to be McIlroy, who used the 2014 event in Aberdeen to help him become Open champion for the first time but missed out at Gullane the following year due to an injury and isn’t a fan of Castle Stuart so skipped the visit there as well last year.
The four-time major winner will also be able to use his status in the game to attract some other big names to Portstewart, where the event is being hosted by the Rory Foundation, but there should be enough of those to go around to keep everyone happy and, remember, both the Scottish and Irish Opens are carrying the same prize pot of $7 million this year through being part of the new Rolex Series.
It would be a surprise, surely, if Henrik Stenson isn’t at Dundonald Links, having used his Scottish Open return at Castle Stuart after a two-year gap last summer to become the fifth player in six years to tee it up in the event before then becoming Open champion a week later while Fowler, the 2015 winner, has hinted he’ll be there, too. Even if you just added in the likes of Mickelson, Russell Knox and Martin Laird at this stage, that would do nicely for starters.