THE links of Castle Stuart is primed and fully prepared as eight Major champions along with the great and the good of the European Tour and beyond descend on Inverness to vie for honours in this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The roll call of winners of the Scottish Open includes some of the finest players ever to play the game and whoever follows 2015 champion Rickie Fowler can write their name into the history books come Sunday afternoon.
Among the prestigious list of past winners are Ian Woosnam, Tom Lehman, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, while in the field this week, hoping to add another Scottish Open crown to his CV, is Major champion Graeme McDowell. The Ulsterman triumphed at Loch Lomond in 2008, which propelled him to a Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla later that year and eventually to U.S. Open glory in 2010 at Pebble Beach.
“I’m looking forward to making my return to Castle Stuart this year. It’s going to be a great little period for me, with the French Open, the Scottish Open and hopefully, The Open, so I’m really excited about that little stretch over the summer,” said McDowell.
“I always love playing in Scotland, and after missing the Scottish Open for a few years it was great to go back there last year. I played very well for the first two days at Gullane, and I’m looking to keep that form going over all four rounds at Castle Stuart.” Joining McDowell in the field this week are seven other Major champions: Padraig Harrington; Martin Kaymer; Darren Clarke; Paul Lawrie; Sandy Lyle; Phil Mickelson and Y.E. Yang, while there is an abundance of talent also hoping to clinch a memorable win, including past Race to Dubai winners Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, plus homecoming hero Russell Knox.
Irishman Harrington will be making his sixth consecutive appearance in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and he is looking forward to returning to Inverness.
“I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Castle Stuart – it’s in a lovely spot and the course is a very fair test,” said the two-time Open Champion. “I’ve had some fairly decent results here without getting myself right into contention, but hopefully, I can change that this year.
“Naturally, The Open Championship is at the back of a lot of players’ minds, but the Scottish Open is a hugely prestigious tournament in its own right and one I’d definitely love to win.”
There is no doubting the high calibre of the field and three Englishmen are in good form as they tee it up this week. Chris Wood sealed the biggest win of his career in May with an outstanding performance at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, while 1998 Scottish Open winner Lee Westwood is showing signs of a return to form after a runner-up finish at The Masters and top tens at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the Nordea Masters, recently.
A strong performance this week will boost Westwood’s hopes of making the team for the 10th consecutive Ryder Cup this autumn.Westwood, who recently set up home in Edinburgh, said: “There’s no better place to play golf than Scotland. The courses are amazing, the fans are very knowledgeable, and there’s always a great atmosphere. Winning the Scottish Open in 1998 was an early highlight of my career, and I’d love to get my hands on the trophy again.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Fitzpatrick underlined his potential with a superb three-stroke win at the Nordea Masters last month. The 21-year-old former US Amateur Champion won his first title in fine style at the British Masters last year and is on course for a Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine.
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello arrives in Scotland in the middle of the best season of his career with over €1.5m in earnings, thanks to runner-up finishes at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, plus a third place finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas.
Making his Scottish Open debut this week is David Lingmerth, who joined the European Tour this year in his quest to make The Ryder Cup team. The 28-year-old Swede has played his golf on the US PGA Tour since turning professional in 2010 and claimed his maiden title at last year’s Memorial Tournament where he defeated Justin Rose in a play-off.He’s had a strong season so far with one runner-up finish on the US PGA Tour and a share of ninth place at the Australian PGA Championship.
Luke Donald returns to the scene of his first Scottish Open triumph of 2011 and joining him is another of the heroes of The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles – Jamie Donaldson. Andy Sullivan is coming off the back of a career-best year with three wins under his belt. The outgoing Englishman has been in good form so far with a runner-up finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Aberdeen’s favourite son Paul Lawrie hopes to add the Scottish Open to his Open Championship win of 1999 while senior golfer Sandy Lyle will be rolling back the years and entertaining the galleries. With an elite field set and ready, this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open promises to be another enthralling encounter. n