Stephen Gallacher hails Scottish Open venue

Scotland's Ryder Cup star Stephen Gallacher poses with his bag and the Scottish Open trophy at Gullane. Picture: Kenny Smith
Scotland's Ryder Cup star Stephen Gallacher poses with his bag and the Scottish Open trophy at Gullane. Picture: Kenny Smith
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SUN-KISSED conditions for media days promoting Scottish golf events is becoming a bit of a trend. So, too, is “world class” being the appropriate tag for the fields for the tournaments in question.

The last in line to play host to the golfing press this year following similar get-togethers for the Open Championship, Women’s British Open and the Ladies Scottish Open, the scene-setter for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open didn’t disappointment.

I told them it [Gullane] was rubbish – I don’t want them to come because it’ll make it harder for me!

Stephen Gallacher

“For those who don’t come from this area, the weather is always like this at Gullane,” said club captain Robert Dick, the smile on his face indicating that it isn’t always flat calm with temperatures rising to 22 degrees – higher than anywhere else in Britain.

It will be down to Mother Nature to decree what the weather has in store for 9-12 July, but one thing for certain is that the line-up then will be mouth-watering, perhaps even the strongest-ever for a regular European Tour event and that bar takes a bit of beating these days as the circuit attracts more global players than ever.

Twelve competitors – eight European and four Americans – from last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles will spearhead the field in the £3.5 million event, the star attractions being world No 1 Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.

Joining McIlroy in the European reunion are defending champion Justin Rose, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, while Mickelson, the 2013 winner, heads an American Ryder Cup contingent that also includes Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker and Matt Kuchar.

That dozen alone competing is a tasty prospect in itself but add in Y E Yang, who came from behind to beat Tiger Woods as he recorded Asia’s first major win when claiming the 2009 US PGA Championship, three other Americans in Ryan Palmer, Ben Martin and Cameron Tringale, as well as England’s former world No 1, Luke Donald, and it’s easy to see why organisers believe a new standard is being set in terms of quality in next month’s event. “I’ve been privileged to be the Scottish Open championship director since 2003,” said Peter Adams, “and of all the great fields we’ve had for the event during that time, this one must be one of – if not the – best field of quality golfers that have ever played in this tournament.”

Unashamedly putting his sales hat on, he added: “I think this is a fantastic opportunity for the public.

“For £30, the price of a daily ticket right now, they are getting the opportunity to see the world No 1 as well as the likes of Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler playing on a great golf course with open, sweeping views – that is a fantastic prospect.”

On the sort of day that has a man in his position wearing a smile as wide as the Firth of Forth, VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay admitted it was pleasing to see a posse of world stars heading for East Lothian at the start of a four-week feast of top-quality golf in the game’s birthplace. He said: “Post-Ryder Cup we were talking about ‘what now?’ and I said then that we were just getting going.

“It’s about momentum, as there is so much more to enjoy in this year and many more years to come. Ahead of The Open, the Scottish Open is going to be a phenomenal event and that is precisely what we were looking for in terms of taking the legacy from 2014 forward.”

As he was quick to point out, Gallacher wasn’t being paid for his attendance yesterday. “To make money, I’ll need to play four rounds next month,” he quipped.

However, the Lothians man did a fantastic job in selling the event at a venue he’s played “hundreds of times”, though a number of those visits have cost him money to the likes of former Scottish internationalists Simon Mackenzie and Scott Knowles, who now runs his Foundation.

“The moment you come around past Longniddry, Craigielaw, Luffness then you turn the corner and you see Gullane Hill – and there are always people on it. It’s just magical,” said Gallacher.

“A lot of the players on tour have been asking about it already.

“I told them it was rubbish – I don’t want them to come because it’ll make it harder for me! No, seriously, Jimmy Walker was asking me about it just recently when I was having lunch with him at a tournament.

“I try to be honest with the boys, tell them all how fair a track it is. It’s all in front of you, nothing that’s going to scare you.”