Henrik Stenson, the world No 5, has joined Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell in committing to play in this summer’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
Stenson finished joint-third behind Mickelson at the Highlands venue in 2013, the same year he was runner-up to the American in the Open Championship at Muirfield seven days later.
The 39-year-old Swede was a surprise absentee from the Scottish Open line-up at both Royal Aberdeen and Gullane the past two years but has now restored the event to his schedule.
“It didn’t quite work out for me on the final day in 2013,” said Stenson of taking a two-shot lead into the final round at the Inverness venue only to lose out to Mickelson as the American claimed the title with a play-off victory over South African Branden Grace. “I had a great chance but Phil recovered well from a bad start and deserved to win.
“But, even though I didn’t quite manage to get the job done, it was still the start of a great run for me and maybe I used those near-misses at Castle Stuart and Muirfield as motivation.”
That is reference to the fact he went on that year to win the Tour Championship and money-list on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour - the first player to achieve that feat.
Stenson’s commitment to play at Castle Stuart comes at a time when he is setting the pace in this season’s Race to Dubai after top-six finishes in South Africa, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The decisions by both Mickelson and McDowell to be in the field had either been predicted or reported in The Scotsman over the past three weeks.
“I’m always excited about returning to Scotland, and particularly to Castle Stuart,” said five-time major winner Mickelson in confirming his seventh straight Scottish Open appearance and 14th overall. “I believe winning there in 2013 was key to my success the next week at The Open Championship.
“Beyond that, the nation is the home of golf and I really appreciate the fans’ golfing knowledge and their respect for the game. It’s always one of the highlights of my year when I compete in Scotland.”
McDowell, the winner at Loch Lomond in 2008, played at Castle Stuart in 2011 but then missed out for three years before making his return at Gullane last simmer.
“I’m looking forward to making my return to Castle Stuart this year,” said the 2010 US Open champion. It’s going to be a great little period for me, with the French Open, the Scottish Open and hopefully The Open, so I’m very excited about that little stretch over the summer.
“I always love playing in Scotland, and after missing the Scottish Open for a few years it was great to go back there last year. I played very well for the first two days at Gullane, and hopefully I can keep that sort of form going over all four rounds at Castle Stuart.”
The trio’s commitment partly offsets world No 2 Rory McIlroy deciding to miss out on this occasion, with defending champion Rickie Fowler another possible absentee due to a condensed summer schedule caused by golf’s return to the Olympics in August.
“I’m absolutely delighted the 2013 champion Phil Mickelson, world No 5 Henrik Stenson and Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell will be playing in this year’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart,” said Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert.
“With a condensed summer golfing calendar, having these star names playing is testament to the strength of this tournament and its enviable position of being contested the week before The Open Championship.
“Aberdeen is a company that continues to grow its presence around the world, so we are pleased that American golf fans will have the opportunity to see the likes of Phil take on the magnificent Castle Stuart once more through our continued live coverage on the Golf Channel and NBC.”
* The event returns to the Inverness venue from July 7-10, 2016. Tickets are now on sale at www.tickets.europeantour.com