Martin Dempster: Scottish fans must support world-class fields

Right then, it's time for Scottish golf fans to be getting off their backsides and showing support for an upcoming run of events that '¨simply can't be taken for granted and shame on anyone who thinks otherwise.

Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy are both playing at Dundonald. Picture: Getty.

It’s way too easy to get to this time of the year and simply sit back, believing that, just because we live in the home of golf, we can expect 
to see such a flurry of top-class 
tournaments at the height of the season.

Yes, of course, the Open Championship will always be staged in Scotland at least every three years, but that’s different because it is the one event – and rightly so – that will never struggle, or shouldn’t 
anyway, to get people through the gates.

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It would be foolish, though, to think that the same applies to some of those other treats on the horizon because part of the success of those events will be gauged on spectator levels, so, to borrow the words on Lord Kitchener’s famous First World War poster, “Your Country Needs You”.

Starting in a fortnight’s time, when the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open visits Dundonald Links in Ayrshire because, and make no mistake about this, it is going to be compared in all manner of ways this year to its Irish 
equivalent.

Held in May last season, the Irish Open has now moved to the slot preceding the Scottish event, creating competition before the two events have even started in terms of the strength of the respective line-ups. Both, it must be said, are outstanding and that is terrific for the 
European Tour.

The Scottish Open, though, is set to boast the strongest field so far this season on that circuit – it contains four of the world’s top ten and 17 in the top 50 – so there can be no excuses for it not being a success on the 
spectator front. Particularly so when this year’s Claret Jug joust is in England.

The Scottish Open had already looked to be a mouthwatering prospect when Henrik Stenson said he’d be returning to Ayrshire, having become Open champion a few miles down the coast at Royal Troon last summer. It was also great news when former Masters champion Adam Scott had announced he would be making his first appearance in the event since 2009.

The way the field has started to shape up over the past few weeks, though, has moved the excitement needle up a few notches because, put simply, this could quite possibly be the strongest Scottish 
Open line-up in the tournament’s history.

World No 3 Rory McIlroy added his name to the list just under a fortnight ago, shortly after 2015 winner Rickie Fowler confirmed his return after sitting out a title defence at Castle Stuart last year, while the publication of the official entry list revealed some more stellar names in the cast.

Patrick Reed, for instance, and what a massive boost it is to have the US Ryder Cup talisman in the field. The same applies to former US PGA champion Jason Dufner, the duo joining Fowler and Matt Kuchar in providing an impressive frontline American contingent in the £5.5 million Rolex Series event.

Also being held at Dundonald Links – the first time the events have been staged as double-headers albeit with a week’s gap in the middle – the Aberdeen Asset Ladies Scottish Open needs to be given the right and proper support, too, as does the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns Links a week later. Both these events will boast world-class fields and let’s hope a two-for-the-price-of-one ticket offer for the Scottish Opens attracts people who may not otherwise have thought about heading to the ladies’ event.

Just look at the Ladies European Tour schedule for this season to see how lucky we are to have the Ladies Scottish Open and what a bonus that it now carries a £1.2 m prize fund through a co-sanctioning agreement with the LPGA. It’s the duty of the Scottish golfing public to show appreciation of that by getting along to see players such as Lydia Ko, Michelle Wie and Ariya Jutanugarn in action.

In short, there’s a real “wow factor” about the events coming up here over the next few weeks and it would be remiss not to mention this week’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge. It, after all, has proved a stepping stone for Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello over the past 
11 years, suggesting a future superstar or two will be in the field at Macdonald Spey Valley in 
Aviemore.