Scottish Open looks like it will stay at Renaissance Club despite criticism from Rory McIlroy

Keith Pelley, the CEO of the European Tour, has hinted that the Renaissance Club in East Lothian could be set for a prolonged run as home of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open as part of a new deal being struck for the Rolex Series event.

Bernd Wiesberger of Austria won this year's Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club where the course was criticised for being too easy. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The current contract for the tournament, which is one of the richest on the circuit with its $7 million prize fund, ends next year, when the event is returning to the American-owned Renaissance Club for the second season in a row.

When Austrian Bernd Wiesberger claimed the title with a play-off victory in July, a number of players, notably Rory McIlroy, claimed the course set up that week had not been tough enough for a tournament of that calibre.

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Judging from comments about his 2020 schedule, it seems unlikely that McIlroy will be back next summer, but Pelley remains a big fan of the Renaissance Club and is confident the Tom Doak-designed course can answer its critics in a similar way as Wentworth has with the BMW PGA Championship.

“When there is no wind and it’s calm and it’s sunny, these guys are pretty good,” said Pelley of Wiesberger winning this year’s low-scoring event with a 22-under-par total in benign conditions on a rain-softened course. “But I think people would probably concur that it wasn’t as easy when the Ladies’ Scottish Open was also held there a month later.

“We did ask for some player feedback afterwards and the Sarvadi brothers, who have built a terrific golf facility with terrific amenities and a fantastic golf course, have been incredibly pro-active in taking on that feedback and making some adjustments.

“The Renaissance Club has it all and, if we can fine tune the golf course to the players’ liking, then it is really terrific. I look at it and kind of compare it to Wentworth. When I took up this job, there was so much criticism of the golf course and we sat down with the owners and they invested the money.

“They brought in Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn and David Jones at European Golf Design and we listened to the players and made the changes. I think the Renaissance Club has the chance to be a place that the players absolutely love. The golf course is really close to being at that level.”

After a run that saw the event move around the country, visiting Castle Stuart in Inverness, Royal Aberdeen and Dundonald Links, East Lothian now seems to have become the preferred choice, with Gullane hosting it twice and now the Renaissance Club set to do likewise.

“The last meeting I had with Jerry [Sarvadi, the chief executive and family member on the ground] was at the BMW PGA Championship in September,” added Pelley. “They have built an incredible facility and they want the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, which is very positive.”

The event has involved a partnership between the European Tour, Aberdeen Standard Investments and the Scottish Government since 2012, the driving force behind it in that time having been Martin Gilbert.

It was announced recently that he is stepping down as chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investments next year after four decades with the company he founded as Aberdeen Asset Management, but that development does not seem to have put hopes of a new deal under threat.

“Martin is still with Aberdeen Standard Investments,” said Pelley when asked about the contract situation. “We are deep in renewal conversations and we are confident that we will come to a solution. He is still involved in the conversations.”

The term of that contract could be lengthy, based on what the Tour chief had to say about the future of the Turkish Airlines Open, one of the circuit’s Final Series events but which is also set for a contract renewal after next year’s event in Belek.

“We are not really interested in two or three-year commitments,” added Pelley. “We are now in a position where it might be a little bit different. We will say to promoters, partners and sponsors, ‘we are looking for longer-term commitments’. What we are now looking for are seven and ten-year commitments going forward.”

Meanwhile, the number of Open Championship spots up for grabs in next year’s Scottish Open has been increased from three to four by the R&A as part of the event’s Qualifying Series, which will offer a total of 46 places at Royal 
St George’s through 16 events in 11 countries across five 
continents.