Justin Rose, the 2014 winner, and Matt Kuchar, who was runner-up the following season, have handed this year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open an early boost by confirming they are both heading back to Gullane in July.
The duo, who are both in the world’s top 15, revealed the event’s return to the East Lothian venue, where Rickie Fowler won in 2015, is on their 2018 schedules as they prepared for this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first big event of the season on the European Tour.
“I’m going to play the Scottish Open,” said Rose, who beat a field that included Rory McIlroy to claim the title at Royal Aberdeen and defended it at Gullane but then missed the next two stagings at Castle Stuart and Dundonald Links.
“Gullane is a good golf course and I really enjoy it. Just being in Scotland for two weeks is a nice part of the year. It’s traditional golf. It’s big crowds and the Scottish Open is a big event, now a Rolex Series event.
“So it’s never a warm up, but it kind of gets you in the mode of playing in the wind and seeing the right shots. Just getting the feel of the bounce of the ball is really, really important.”
After opening with a brace of 66s in 2015, the Englishman fell away after closing rounds of 72 and 76 to finish 74th. Nonetheless, that preparation helped him claim a share of sixth spot behind Zach Johnson in the Open Championship at St Andrews the following week and now he’s hoping a similar plan of attack can help him get in the mix for this year’s Claret Jug joust at Carnoustie.
“Carnoustie is a great venue,” added Rose, who is starting the 2018 campaign as world No 6 after ending last year with ten consecutive top-10 finishes, an impressive run that included three wins, including the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
“In 1999, I think it was set up unfairly an got a reputation for being a real brute, but I think it’s a fun golf course to play and it’s actually a playable golf course. We play it in the Dunhill Links and it’s scoreable and it will be somewhere in the middle for the Open Championship. It’s a venue that I am looking forward to.”
The same goes for Kuchar, who finished second to Jordan Spieth in that event at Royal Birkdale last year, and the American is hoping his return to Gullane can get him ready for his bid to go one better this time around.
“Sure, I plan on being back,” said Kuchar, who has become an Affiliate Member of the European Tour this season. “The Scottish Open is an event I’ve really come to enjoy. I think it’s a great lead in to the British Open.
“I actually went when I was an amateur and played at Loch Lomond a number of years. I love Loch Lomond. I didn’t think it was a great tune up but loved the golf course and the hospitality there.
“I think what they have done with moving it to links courses has been a very smart move and finishing second to Rickie at Gullane a couple of years ago was a great week and I’m certainly looking forward to going back.”
The seven-time PGA Tour winner shot four rounds in the 60s three years ago, finishing a shot behind Fowler after his compatriot produced a wonder shot at the 72nd hole for a title-winning birdie.
“I remember playing Gullane as an amateur in a fun round of golf and enjoying the golf course,” he added. “I think it’s a nice warm up. It doesn’t beat you up, but it provides enough challenges. It provides enough of the pot bunkers that you need to avoid.
“It certainly provides the wind and exposure to the wind and the elements and the fescue greens to get used to, so it’s definitely a good warm up.”