Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler head stellar cast on all-new stage, reports Martin Dempster
It may be visiting a new venue in the The Renaissance Club, but it’s a case of deja vu in terms of the Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) Scottish Open attracting another star-studded field on the East Lothian coast.
As was the case at Gullane in both 2015 and 2018, the Rolex Series event is set to boast one of the strongest line-ups of the season on the European Tour as a stellar cast is headed by some of the biggest names in the sport.
Major winners Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Henrik Stenson, Paul Lawrie, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Jimmy Walker will all be there on Scotland’s Golf Coast on 11-14 July.
So, too, will American aces Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Andrew Putnam and Rickie Fowler, the latter bidding to reclaim a title he loved winning in the first of those visits to Gullane.
The field also includes defending champion Brandon Stone, plus other former winners in Lee Westwood, Rafa Carbrera-Bello and Edoardo Molinari, not to mention the likes of Ian Poulter, Matt Wallace, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Eddie Pepperell, Tyrrell Hatton, Haotong Li and Branden Grace.
Add in a Tartan Army that will be led by Russell Knox and also includes Stephen Gallacher, David Law, Bob MacIntyre, Richie Ramsay and local hero Grant Forrest, and it’s lip-licking fare in the $7 million event.
McIlroy, who is making his sixth appearance and first since 2017, will tee it up at The Renaissance Club with one eye on claiming a second Claret Jug in the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
With his 2014 victory at Royal Liverpool, he became one of six of the last nine winners of The Open who prepared for their major triumph by taking part in the ASI Scottish Open the previous week.
McIlroy is joined in that illustrious group by Ryder Cup team-mate Stenson, who picked up the Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 2016, as well as Els four years earlier at Royal Lytham.
Thomas, the 2017 US PGA champion, is making his debut in the event, having jumped at the opportunity after enjoying the experience of playing in the French Open at Le Golf National last summer in the build-up to the Ryder Cup at the same venue. “I’m excited to get back to Scotland as I definitely have fond memories of the country,” he said of having made his first start as a professional in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2013.
“I’ve never played in this event before, but I know that the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open always has a great field, and a lot of Americans come over every year ahead of The Open. I had so much fun at the French Open last year, and how well I was treated and welcomed by all the fans.
“A huge goal of mine is to win on different tours and in different countries. To be able to win a European Tour event, a Scottish Open in one of the biggest events, would be pretty cool to add to my resumé.”
Fowler, a winner on the PGA Tour in the Phoenix Open in March, has enjoyed a phenomenal run since his Scottish Open debut in 2014, securing top-ten finishes in all four of his appearances in the event.
“I have great memories from this tournament, particularly of my win at Gullane in 2015, and with fantastic courses and knowledgeable fans, I’m always excited to play.” he said.
“It’s a fun week but it gives the tournament extra edge to have The Open the following week. I know that a lot of players have won The Open after playing in Scotland, so it’s good preparation as well as being a great week of competition in itself.”
For Kuchar, it will be a fourth appearance in five years, having finished second to Fowler in 2015 before getting himself in the mix again at Dundonald Links two years ago.
“I’ve had a good couple of runs at the title and always enjoy the great competition,” said the four-time Ryder Cup player who tops the FedEx Cup standings on the PGA Tour this season. “I view the tournament not just as great preparation for The Open, but also as a challenge in its own right.
“It’s always a pleasure to play in front of the Scottish fans. They are always so knowledgeable and welcoming, and I look forward to getting back over there this summer.”
Stenson is a popular visitor to the Home of Golf, where he beat Phil Mickelson in a titanic tussle over the final two days to get his hands on the Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 2016.
Looking ahead to an 11th appearance in the Scottish Open, the Swede said: “It has always been good preparation for The Open for me. I feel like I’ve come in ready and have had some great results when I have played in Scotland the week before. I’m also looking forward to teeing it up at The Renaissance Club for the first time.”
The stage is set and, adding another layer of excitement, especially on the last day, three spots in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush will be up for grabs in the season’s final major.