IN between talking about transforming his golf career and a love for astrophotography, Jimmy Walker yesterday backed the Renaissance Club in East Lothian to become a future Scottish Open venue.
European Tour officials in conjunction with sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government are looking at new courses for the event, ideally one in the east and another in the west.
It follows a decision to move it around the country a bit more, with the tournament heading to Royal Aberdeen for the first time in July then, almost certainly in 2016, a return to Castle Stuart. That leaves both 2015 and 2017 to be filled under the deal between the three partners, with The Renaissance reckoned to be the front-runner in the east and Dundonald Links being considered in the west.
“I played The Renaissance a couple of times last year and it’s a cool spot,” said Walker. “It was a tough track with tricky greens and I think they could hold the Scottish Open there.”
The 35-year-old, a three-times winner on the 2014 PGA Tour schedule, is committed to playing in the event for the first time in Aberdeen and hopes to be back in Scotland again in September for the Ryder Cup. However, he is still to decide whether or not he’ll head to Gleneagles after the Open Championship for a gathering planned by Tom Watson to let some of his players get to know the PGA Centenary Course.
Listening to Walker was a surreal experience as he talked one minute about his high hopes of becoming the first rookie to claim the Green Jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 then, the next, his hobby as an astrophotographer.
He’s located a telescope on a remote mountain in New Mexico and controls it remotely to capture spectacular galactic images. “What got me into it was just buying a telescope for the backyard and not being able to see a ton of stuff,” he revealed. “Then I started reading and learning on how you would get into attaching cameras to a telescope and it’s evolved to me moving all my stuff out to New Mexico, where it sits on top a mountain and fires away every night. I think I’ve done some pretty good stuff.”
Much of the good stuff when it has come to hitting shots in this event in recent years have been produced by Australian Jason Day. In 2011, he finished second behind Charl Schwartzel then, after having to withdraw due to injury 12 months later, he finished third as compatriot Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a play-off 12 months ago. Due to a thumb injury, Day hasn’t played since winning the Accenture WGC-Match Play Championship in Arizona in February.
The 26-year-old has declared himself fit for this week, though, after getting a cortisone injection last week and is one of three players capable of toppling Tiger Woods as world No 1 on Sunday night.
Scott will pass Woods if he finishes third (with no more than one other player); Henrik Stenson will achieve the feat if he ties for second (with no more than one other player) and Day will earn that top ranking if he wins. “My goal is obviously to get to No 1 one day and to have a Green Jacket – and I can do that in one week,” acknowledged the latter. “That’s exciting stuff for me, it really is. Because I know that there’s been a lot of hard work and dedication that I’ve put into the game for many, many years, and it could all pay off in one week.”
Day led with two holes to go a year ago before stumbling at the finish as Scott, instead, became the first Australian to be crowned Masters champion. “I always wanted to be the first Australian to win it,” admitted Day. “Obviously Scotty got there first, but I’m happy to be the second (laughing).”
Day’s WGC win has been followed by three Australian victories in the past four PGA Tour events – successes from John Senden and Steven Bowditch preceding Matt Jones’ play-off win over Matt Kuchar in the Houston Open on Sunday.