Scotland’s golfing public can feast on another rich banquet of truly international competition this week with no fewer than eight of the world’s top 20 players in action at Loch Lomond Golf Club for the £2.4 million Barclays Scottish Open.
Dual champion, Ernie Els of South Africa, heads the strong cast from the upper echelons of the Official World Golf Ranking as current Number Three, followed closely by American Phil Mickelson (four), Retief Goosen of South Africa (five), Australian Adam Scott (seven), Luke Donald of England (13), Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (15), Ireland’s Darren Clarke (17) and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez (20).
Els, Mickelson and Goosen head to The Bonnie Banks as winners of Major Championships, and they are joined by others in the same exclusive category, namely Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle of Scotland, American Tom Lehman, Spain’s two-time Masters winner, José Maria Olazábal, and 2006 European Ryder Cup Captain, Ian Woosnam of Wales.
Els, the only player to win twice at Loch Lomond, having triumphed in 2000 and again three years later, seeks an unprecedented hat-trick as Loch Lomond stages the tournament for the tenth successive year with a record prize fund of £2.4 million.
The figure represents an increase of £200,000 with the first prize of £400,000 being £33,340 more than Frenchman Thomas Levet pocketed after his memorable win in 2004 when he closed with a stunning 63 to edge out new US Open Champion, Michael Campbell.
Mickelson, the 2004 Masters Champion, returns to Loch Lomond for the third year running. He said: “I always look forward to going back to Loch Lomond. It's really an enjoyable event - quality competition the week before The Open Championship, a really fun course to play and some of the most knowledgeable fans we see all year.”
Cabrera, who won the BMW Championship at Wentworth Club, is currently 15th on the Official World Golf Ranking, and he joins past Loch Lomond champions, Thomas Björn, Els, Goosen, Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Eduardo Romero and Lee Westwood, who have all confirmed that they will be back at Loch Lomond to challenge defending champion Levet for the coveted title.
Lehman, who won at Loch Lomond in 1997 and last week visited The K Club in Ireland where he will Captain the United States in the Ryder Cup next September, said: “I am truly delighted to be going back to Loch Lomond again this year to participate in The Barclays Scottish Open. It is a great tournament and one that holds very special memories for me. I really enjoy playing the golf course and I am looking forward to a great week.”
Montgomerie, who won the event in 1999, said: “It is always a great pleasure for me to return to Scotland to play in The Barclays Scottish Open. It is a fantastic week and I always enjoy the support I get from the great Scottish spectators. As a past champion, the tournament means a lot to me and I am really looking forward to challenging for the title.”