TOM Watson’s influence on potential members of his Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles has probably been displayed for the first time after Jimmy Walker confirmed he will be making his debut in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen in July.
The 34-year-old, who tops the points table in the battle for nine automatic spots on the US team for September’s match in Perthshire, is the latest exciting addition to the field for the event’s first staging in the Granite City, where the line-up will also include defending champion Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
“Great news,” replied Paul Lawrie almost instantaneously by Twitter to the announcement of Walker’s participation at Balgownie links, the Aberdonian’s reaction being understandable given the way the American has taken the PGA Tour by storm by winning three times season.
“Jimmy who?” would have been the response from the majority of Scottish golf fans if the same announcement had been made 12 months ago but not now, following Walker’s eye-catching victories in the Frys.com Open last October, January’s Sony Open and, most recently, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last month.
“I’m really excited about making my debut in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and tackling the fantastic links course at Royal Aberdeen,” said Walker, the world No 26 who tops the US Ryder Cup standings ahead of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
“We don’t get a chance to play much links golf over on the US PGA Tour,” added the player who also holds a sizeable lead in this season’s FedEx Cup, “so playing the Scottish Open is a great opportunity and a new challenge I’m relishing. The tournament always has a very strong field with many of the best players in the world, so I can’t wait to test my game there.” While Walker is big enough to make his own decisions – and he will be well aware of how compatriot Mickelson won the Scottish Open last year then went on to claim his first Open Championship as well the following week – it seems likely that Watson will have had a hand in the reason he’s picked this year to play in the event for the first time.
You can just picture the five-times Open champion, who enjoyed nothing more than playing in front of crowds in the home of golf, telling Walker that by teeing it up at Royal Aberdeen he would get the perfect chance to experience that himself for a first time before arriving at Gleneagles later in the year.
Watson indicated recently that he was hoping to arrange a get-together there for players in the running for his team between the Scottish Open and The Open, with Walker now having sent out a clear message that his journey from Aberdeen to Royal Liverpool is likely to be broken in Perthshire.
Early-bird discounts for the Scottish Open are available until 31 March. A season ticket can be purchased for £60 in advance, a saving of £20 on admission at the gate. Adult day tickets are currently priced at £25, rising to £35 on the gate.