With just a week to go until the third major of the golf year, the British Open at Royal Birkdale, many of the world’s top golfers have arrived in Scotland for the Scottish Open.
For 15 years, the Scottish Open was held at the Loch Lomond course, one of the best in the UK but nothing like the links conditions awaiting the world’s best players the following week in the British Open. So they started missing the event.
So in 2011, the organizers moved it back to the classic seaside layouts that Scotland is so famous for, and the likes of Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen and Gullane have hosted the event since. And, naturally, the world’s best players returned.
The Dundonald Links course is a 7,242-yard, par-72 layout that was designed by the highly acclaimed Kyle Phillips, whose creations also include Kingsbarns, one of the three venues for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The course is located on the West Coast of Scotland, a stretch of coastline that also boasts Turnberry and Royal Troon among its neighbors.
Alex Noren is the defending Scottish Open champion, having taken a one-stroke victory over Tyrrell Hatton at the Castle Stuart Links. The three previous winners were Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, all of whom will be traveling to Royal Birkdale as pre-tournament fancied winners of the Royal and Ancient’s big event. The most famous victory was Peter O’Malley’s stunning performance in 1992, when he played the last five holes in a staggering 7 under par to defeat Colin Montgomerie by two shots.
Fowler is a big fan of links golf and arrives ranked No. 10 in the world.
“I’m definitely looking forward to being back here in Scotland,” he said. “I was a little bummed that we weren’t able to make it back last year with some schedule conflicts, but after getting the win here in 2015 at Gullane, I always love playing over here in Scotland. Links golf is probably my favorite. Any time I get a chance to play it, I do.”
It really does not get much better than this outside of the British Open for European fans. Rory McIlroy will try to put the disappointment of a missed cut in his home Irish Open behind him as he tees it up with Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Noren will be alongside former World No. 1 Adam Scott, and Patrick Reed will be out with Martin Kaymer.
Throw in the likes of Matt Kuchar, Bernd Wiesberger, Jason Dufner, Stuart Cink and Ian Poulter, and you have a field to appeal to any golf fan.
One last chance for Birkdale
The leading three finishers in the top 12 on Sunday who have not already qualified for the Open will earn themselves the final places next Thursday.
Already in form at Dundonald
Reed won the Hero Challenge on Tuesday, a one-hole knockout contest that saw him defeat Tyrrell Hatton in the final.
“Any time you can hit some quality golf shots and have some fun with the fans is always a lot of fun,” Reed said. “Playing against some of my fellow Ryder Cuppers made it feel like 2016 all over again.”