'Crazy winds' and 'crazy fans': why the Americans love Scottish golf
“Crazy winds” and “crazy fans”. Golf suddenly felt a bit normal again as Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa respectively used those descriptions in relaying why they are both happy to be back in Scotland.
The duo are part of a star-studded cast for the $8 million Genesis Scottish Open, which starts on Thursday at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, before moving on to St Andrews for next week’s 150th Open - the season’s final major.
Like lots of others this week, Masters champion and world No 1 Scheffler and fourth-ranked Morikawa, the reigning Open champion, found themselves fielding LIV Golf questions in their press conferences ahead of the first of those assignments.
However, there was no hiding the fact they were way more excited when the focus turned to what they are actually doing here - playing a form of golf they love and doing so in a country where fans appreciate good golf.
“Today we had these crazy winds,” said Scheffler, his point being illustrated by the fact he had to ask for questions to be repeated a couple of times due to the sound of the media centre rattling. “I only played nine holes, but it was actually really fun to play and you're doing all kinds of crazy stuff.”
His caddie, Teddy Scott, seemed to enjoy seeing Scheffler, a four-time winner this season, tackle the conditions. “When it gets this windy, Teddy just hands me a club and is like, ‘all right, I think it's a 4, good luck, man,” added Scheffler, smiling.
“Like what's it going to do, hit this 150-yard shot into a 40-mile-an-hour wind and play it 190 but like if my flight changes by four feet, it's going to be a 30-yard difference. It's like you've got to take ownership of what you're doing.”
Doing that in this event at the same venue 12 months ago helped Morikawa get his hands on the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s the following week. In doing so, he created history as the first player to win two majors as a debutant, having also achieved the feat in the 2020 PGA Championship.
According to the Californian, it was a no-brainer being back on Scotland’s Golf Coast, where he’s among 14 of the world’s top-15 players on this occasion.
“After last year, really high up,” replied Morikawa to being asked how important the Scottish Open is now ranked in his calendar outside of the majors. Why change it? And why try and change it up from what happened last year?
“I think it gave me good prep. It got me out to Europe. Obviously with the time difference, that's a big thing for us, just getting used to it. But it's also the different type of grass and different green speeds.
“Also, when you see a field like this, you want to be a part of it. I can't see why you wouldn't want to be a part of something like this. Any time you're playing a country's Open, I was playing with Bob MacIntyre last year, and the fans are crazy in a good way because they love the game and they appreciate just us coming out.
“Any time you're able to be a part of that, just enjoying the fans as much as they are enjoying you, you know it's going to be a good time.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick, the game’s newest major champion after his sensational US Open win at Brookline last month, lost out in a play-off last year to Australian Min Woo Lee. After a wet finish, they tied on 18-under along with Belgian Thomas Detry.
“I probably wasn’t as frustrated as I normally would be,” insisted Fitzpatrick of that disappointment, adding with a smile: “I was more interested in getting to the Euro final (between England and Italy at Wembley), so it it probably didn't hurt as much as another play-off loss that I've had in the past.”
This is the Yorkshireman’s first DP World Tour/PGA Tour appearance since landing that big breakthrough in Boston. “I just want to get back to the routine and get back to playing regular golf again and this is a great week to do it,” he said.
“Obviously such a strong field and a golf course I've played well around before, so yeah, looking forward to getting the week underway.”
In the first-ever co-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, points will be on offer in both the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup.
“Yeah, selfishly, I can say that for somebody who plays both tours, to have one event that counts not only as a start but it can count for both tours, it's a wonderful thing,” said Jon Rahm.
“Also, you get more players that maybe wouldn't have come to this event to come and see this beautiful course, and play in Scotland. Looking forward to it, and I can't wait to get started.”
While the Spaniard, who was the world No 1 at the time, finished in the top 10 last year, a win had been in his sights heading into the final round in his first appearance after winning the US Open at Torrey Pines.
“It wasn't my best weekend,” recalled Rahm. “I remember starting really hot on Friday morning. I think I was seven-under through ten holes and came in at 6-under par, I believe. I did have a go but I didn't have my best week. It's golf. It is how it is. I had a really good weekend at The Open Championship, and those things happen.
“It just shows that I know how to play the golf course. I remember we had completely different wind every day. So we'll see. If we have the wind we have right now, it going to be a very different golf course to what we play. We'll see how the weather is and we'll see what I can do.
“But I think Phil Mickelson (who won the 2013 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart before adding The Open at Muirfield seven days later) has shown that you can take a lot of confidence from playing similar the week before since he's won a tournament before a major and then won a major a couple times.
“Yeah, it's always good to play solid golf on a links course before you go to The Open Championship. It gave me quite a bit of confidence (last year) knowing my game was ready to basically to take whatever St George's had ready for us.”
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