Having hosted some of the highest profile global events, Gleneagles is used to being in the spotlight.
However, when the first players tee-off in the Johnnie Walker Championship on 23rd August, it will be the focus of attention for the golfing world.
Not only will be the 156-man field be vying for a share of the £1.4million prize fund, but it is also the last counting event in the race for European Ryder Cup points; for some players, it will be their most important tournament of the year.
With over 300 European Tour titles between them the field is as strong as ever, led by event Chairman Colin Montgomerie, European Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal and his newly announced Vice Captains, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and defending Champion Thomas Björn. The field also includes Paul Casey, Ross Fisher, Simon Dyson plus home favourites Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher.
With just over a month to go until The Ryder Cup, match play exponent Ian Poulter moved into an automatic qualifying spot at the expense of Sergio Garcia after the Englishman’s joint third place in the US PGA Championship last weekend.
If most people expected Poulter’s name to be in the frame, one name they will be surprised to see featuring is his fellow countryman David Lynn.
In what was Lynn’s first Major Championship in the USA, the 38 year old carded a final round 68 to climb up the leaderboard into a second place finish. Lynn’s remarkable performance lifted him from 28th to 13th on the Ryder Cup standings and a strong showing next week over The PGA Centenary Course, venue of The 2014 Ryder Cup, could see him move into the top ten.
“Jumping 15 places in The Ryder Cup standings was just fantastic,” said Lynn. “Last year I missed the cut at the Johnnie Walker Championship but I’m feeling much more positive this year. If I can play like I did last weekend, who knows what will happen, I suppose if I did win at Gleneagles and was 11th or something on the rankings I would have a chance of a wild card. I'm just glad to be part of the conversation, to be honest."
One player who knows just how crucial a week Gleneagles can be is Edoardo Molinari. Two years ago the Italian, unable to earn enough points to qualify automatically, knew that nothing more than a win would be enough to convince Captain Montgomerie that he deserved one of his precious wildcard picks for The 2010 Ryder Cup team. Molinari duly delivered, making birdies on his last three holes to snatch a one shot victory.
Unfortunately, Edoardo’s challenge this year has been thwarted by a wrist injury but his younger brother, Francesco, looks certain to make it onto that plane to Medinah, currently lying fifth on the European Points List. The ten automatic qualification spots will be filled firstly by the players in the top five positions in the European Points List with the remaining five being taken from the World Points List. Captain Olazábal will then name his two wildcard picks the following day.
“Although I’m sad not to be part of it this year, it’s great to see my brother has almost made it into the team, hopefully he can put in a good performance at the Johnnie Walker Championship to cement his place,” said Edoardo. “When I was given a wild card into Colin’s team it was one of the best weeks of my life and for those guys challenging for qualification, and in good form, winning the Johnnie Walker Championship may just do it for them too.”
Along with David Lynn, two players who will be looking to do just that are 12th placed Nicolas Colsaerts and 14th placed Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Both will be in the Johnnie Walker Championship field and there could be enough points on offer for one of them to make the side. The stakes are high with just two wildcard picks available rather than the three Montgomerie had last time round.
Championship Director, Graeme Marchbank of Diageo, official partners of The 2014 Ryder Cup, commented: “The Ryder Cup race has gone right down to the wire and it will be fascinating to see who has it in their locker to put in a good performance at Gleneagles.
“We are looking forward to crowning the 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship winner and seeing the final European Ryder Cup team sheet. It will be interesting to see who makes José María’s two wildcard picks.”
Previous winners of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles include England’s Warren Bennett in 1999; Sweden’s Pierre Fulke in 2000; Englishman Paul Casey in 2001 and 2006 (the only player to win on two occasions); Australia’s Adam Scott in 2002; Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen (2003); England’s Miles Tunnicliff (2004); Italy’s Emanuele Canonica (2005); Marc Warren, the only Scot to win, in 2007; Grégory Havret of France (2008); Sweden’s Peter Hedblom in 2009; Edoardo Molinari in 2010 and Thomas Björn in 2011.
The prize fund is £1.4 million with the winner receiving a cheque for £233,330
The 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles will again be broadcast on Sky Sports and will be played at Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course from August 23-26.
For the second successive year in a row the Championship organisers have set the Friday ticket price to just £5. Once again Gleneagles will donate all the revenue from on-the-day ticket sales to ClubGolf – Scotland’s junior golf development programme.
Tickets are available at the course and at www.europeantourtickets.com. Parking is free. For full details on the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles visit www.johnniewalkerchampionship.com; for further details on The Gleneagles Hotel, visit www.gleneagles.com