Why Scotland is set for its greatest year of golf in 2022 - Martin Dempster
Yes, that’s quite a strong statement to come out with, but, in fairness to him, the evidence is there to suggest that we really do have a year looming that promises to beat anything that has gone before.
Pride of place, of course, will go to the 150th Open at St Andrews, with excited spectators around the world either knowing already that they’ve been lucky in the R&A’s first ticket ballot for the event or about to find out.
There’s always something extra exciting about the Claret Jug event when it’s being staged on the Old Course and this one, partly due to being intrigued about how many greens Bryson DeChambeau might hit and could 60 actually be broken, can’t come quickly enough for lots of people.
That huge week for the game will be preceded and followed by two equally fascinating events, namely the Genesis Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club and the Senior Open presented by Rolex at Gleneagles.
It’s nothing new, of course, for the Scottish Open to boast a world-class field, having been strongly supported by Phil Mickelson, in particular, but also other big-name Amercans from its spell at Loch Lomond to visits to links venues around the country over the past decade or so.
But the 2022 edition will be on another level in that respect as a consequence of the first staging under the Genesis banner also being a ground-breaking affair as it forms part of both the European Tour and PGA Tour schedules.
Having all played in this year’s event at the same venue, it’s highly likely that Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele will be back next July, with DeChambeau having hinted that he is probably going to be there, too.
No wonder there was a record demand for tickets for the $8 million Rolex Series event when they went on sale recently at a special launch price because knowledgeable Scottish fans are well aware of the marvellous opportunity they are being afforded and many will have missed out in that Open ballot.
While excited myself about the Scottish Open and The Open, I have to admit that the event I am probably looking forward to the most next year on home soil is the Senior Open, closely followed by the AIG Women’s Open.
Like lots of others, some of my best memories watching golf as a spectator came during the days of the Bell’s Scottish Open on the King’s Course at Gleneagles, having fallen in love with the Perthshire venue through watching the BBC’s Pro Celebrity Golf series.
While the PGA Centenary Course, venue for both the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup in the past seven years, has definitely grown on me, the King’s Course will always hold a special place in my heart and it promises to be a great fit for the Senior Open as it breaks new ground.
Mickelson might be there. Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie definitely will - Sandy Lyle, too, hopefully - as will the likes of Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and all the other golden oldies in the game.
I’ll get round to the AIG Women’s Open, but, before it takes place at Muirfield for the first time in early August, we’ve also now got a double-header on the cards in the final week of July.
Set to boast an increased prize fund of $2 million as one of the events being upgraded on the rebranded DP World Tour in 2022, the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews will take place at the same time as the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
In a small country like ours, it’s not ideal having two tournaments in the same week, but this particular clash clearly can’t be avoided. The Hero Open is again part of a UK Swing on the European Tour while the Women’s Scottish Open sits in the slot on the LET and LPGA schedules the week before the AIG Women’s Open.
It will be the third year in a row that Fairmont St Andrews plays host to the European Tour, having been one of the venues to get an unexpected opportunity due to the Covid-19 pandemic and proving a welcome addition to the schedule.
Until last week, all of the big events in Scotland in 2022 had been earmarked for the east side of the country, but the west is also now being catered for following Friday’s announcement about the Women’s Scottish Open heading back to Dundonald Links.
The Ayrshire venue staged the event three years in a row, so it’s no stranger to the players, but they are in for a nice surprise off the course because its new owners, Darwin Escapes, have delivered a fantastic clubhouse and on-site accommodation through a £25 million investment.
Part of the reason The Renaissance Club is popular with players for the men’s equivalent is due to them being able to stay at the venue itself or very close by and Dundonald Links, where the only building for so long was effectively a portacabin, albeit luxurious, also now affords that possibility.
After five events in a four-week period, you might think we’d all be ready for a bit of breathing time, but not when the final tournament in an incredible summer of golf in Scotland is that AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.
For many, myself included, the East Lothian venue is the best course on the rota for The Open and, of all the places the world’s top women will be playing next year, it will be top of the list for the vast majority and rightly so.
You know, we’re lucky people and hats off to the Scottish Government and VisitScotland for continuing to support the game in a fitting and proper manner. The pre-Open lot for the Genesis Scottish Open has now been secured through until 2025, the same time an investment of up to £6 million has been earmarked for the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.
Add in the Alfred Dunhill Links, and please let’s never underestimate the huge financial commitment Johann Rupert continues to make to that event, in September and, yip, I do think we are indeed set for that “greatest ever year of golf” in our fabulous little country.
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