Ernie Els and Paul Lawrie suffer injury blows

FORMER Open champions Ernie Els and Paul Lawrie are both hoping to be fit for next week's Barclays Scottish Open at Castle Stuart despite withdrawing from events they were due to play in this week.

Els has pulled out of the AT&T National event on the PGA Tour with a slight back strain while Lawrie has scratched from the French Open with a neck injury.

Both are confident they will have recovered in time for next week's event outside Inverness, where Els will be bidding to win the Scottish Open title for the third time - a feat only achieved in the event's history by Ian Woosnam (1987, 1990, 1996). "I am really looking forward to seeing the new venue - I have heard good things about the course and it promises to be a great week," said Els.

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Championship Director Peter Adams said: "Ernie is one of the game's truly global players with his talents recognised the world over but he is always accorded a special welcome in Scotland and I know that will be the case once again at Castle Stuart."

Instead of playing in Paris, Lawrie is having treatment at home in Aberdeen in the hope that he will be fully fit for the first staging of the event at Castle Stuart. "I've had the injury, which is on the left side of my neck, on and off for a while, but last week at the BMW International Open in Munich it was particularly bad," he said. "I played beautifully in the first round and shot a 66, but then woke up on Friday and the neck was really poor.

"I was hitting shots 20 yards less than I would normally because I couldn't make a proper backswing. If I get it fixed this week I hope it will be okay for the rest of the year.

"The two biggest weeks of the year are coming up, with the Scottish Open followed by the Open Championship at Royal St George's, so it's important that I'm in good shape for them both."