JUSTIN Rose, the 2014 winner, has welcomed the possibility of the Scottish Open being staged at Donald Trump’s course in Aberdeen but, at the same time, is keen to see a rota for the event being maintained rather than it returning to having a permanent home.
Castle Stuart, near Inverness, and Royal Aberdeen, where Rose claimed the title last summer, have already staged the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event since it left Loch Lomond and now Gullane is bracing itself to welcome a world-class field led by Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson next month.
“The little that I have seen of Trump International, it looks a really good golf course”Justin Rose
The event’s three partners – AAM, the European Tour and the Scottish Government – are taking the tournament back to Castle Stuart next year, with it being reported this week that a deal had been struck for it to be held at Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
The American billionaire claimed during a visit there this week that the European Tour was looking for a “permanent home”, which certainly wasn’t the impression Peter Adams, the championship director, gave when he responded to the speculation about future venues by insisting that “no firm decisions” had been made about the Scottish Open beyond next year.
Listening to Rose as he conducted a conference call in the countdown to his title defence in East Lothian, it seems the players would prefer to see it move around the home of golf, a policy that paid a handsome dividend when Royal Aberdeen hosted a top-quality field last year and has done so again this time around as an even better line-up prepares to assemble at Gullane.
“There’s a rotation for the Open Championship and it’s kind of nice that it [the Scottish Open] also changes venue once in a while because it stops it from being pigeon-holed to suit certain players and not suit some others,” said the Englishman, who shot four rounds in the 60s at Balgownie as he recorded a two-shot victory.
“But the little that I have seen of Trump International, it looks a really good golf course and probably would be a good venue that would host the tournament very well for a number of years. So, if logistically things work, then I wouldn’t say it’s a bad choice, but I am a fan of moving it around to keep it interesting. With so many great Scottish links courses to choose from, I think it’s nicer to get a bit of variety.”
No matter where the Scottish Open is held in years to come, Rose is confident he won’t encounter the sort of incident that contributed to him missing out on a second PGA Tour win this season as he lost to Swede David Lingmerth in a play-off in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio last Sunday. The Ryder Cup star was subjected to a fan shouting at the top of his backswing, which clearly put him off and cost him a shot at the 14th in the final round.
Rose insisted such incidents are “still very isolated” and said it was perhaps a result of top golfers having become “entertainers” for the paying public. “The ropes have been brought in close because every sponsor is trying to give the fans more access to us to enhance the spectator experience,” he commented.
“That means more distractions for the players but the fact is that means we are playing for more money so you can’t have it both ways. If you want sponsorship and you want crowds to be there, then you have to put up with some of the inevitable stuff that comes along with it.”
However, he used last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles as an example of why even the younger players know that when they come to play in Scotland they are being watched by knowledgeable golf fans as opposed to beer-fuelled sports nuts. “The biggest contrast I’ve seen is in my three Ryder Cups – two in America and one in Scotland last year,” he said. “I was actually amazed at how supportive the Scottish crowd were of the American team at Gleneagles. They just really appreciated good golf and enjoyed seeing Bubba Watson hit crazy shots. There was no negativity towards any player in the US team, which is definitely very different to what the Europeans get when we play in America.”
Rose, the 2013 winner, is heading into next week’s US Open at Chambers Bay feeling confident, having finished joint second behind Jordan Spieth in The Masters in April and then extending his winning run on the PGA Tour to six years in a row with a victory in New Orleans.
“I think this is the form of my life,” admitted the world No 6. “I’ve improved over the last few years and I think I’m in the middle of the prime of my career. I have four or five very good years behind me and I think I can have four or five great years, possibly ten years, ahead of me. I believe that I’m going to have many chances to win major championships. Obviously whether you convert is the big question, but I will use my first major win as my inspiration to win more. It’s a gift, if you like, to not put too much pressure on myself if I’m contention to win again.
“You become accepting of the fact you’re going to lose some majors as well as win. Tiger [Woods] is probably the only person who has gone through his career without giving one away – possibly YE Yang in the 2009 US PGA Championship is one where he could say he let it slip.
“But Jack Nicklaus finished second in almost as many majors as he won. So, you’re always going to have many close calls – but the fact I’ve won one is a great source of confidence any time I get in the hunt.”