The Barclays Scottish Open embarks on a groundbreaking new chapter in its proud history this week when the world’s leading players head to the Scottish Highlands, as Castle Stuart Golf Links hosts the championship for the first time.
Launching a fortnight of links golf, with The 140th Open Championship to follow next week at Royal St George’s, the 29th edition of the Barclays Scottish Open sees Castle Stuart, near Inverness, become the seventh course to host the event since its inception in 1972.
To mark the occasion and the tenth edition with Barclays as title sponsor, a new trophy has been commissioned and a first class field has been assembled, boasting nine Major Champions, 23 Ryder Cup players, 96 players who have won on The European Tour and 14 men who have triumphed on the US PGA Tour.
The leading two players on the Official World Golf Ranking, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, will be among those battling it out for supremacy in the £3million event, with not only the £500,000 first prize on offer to them but the added incentive of the challenge for the World Number One spot.
Englishmen Donald and Westwood took centre stage the last time both played in the same European Tour event in the British Isles, when Donald defeated his compatriot in a play-off in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in May.
Now Westwood has chance to exact his revenge at Castle Stuart and reclaim the title he won in 1998 at the event’s previous home, Loch Lomond.
Last year it was Edoardo Molinari who brought down the curtain on 15 years at Loch Lomond when he finished three shots clear of Darren Clarke.
Molinari will encounter a new venue in Castle Stuart when he defends his title this week, as well as a formidable field that not only includes Donald and Westwood but also four-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson, the American who lost in a play-off to Frenchman Grégory Havret in 2007.
Graeme McDowell, champion the following year, is also in the field, along with American Matt Kuchar, meaning five out of the world’s top ten will descend on the Moray Firth coast.
In-form Richie Ramsay, who finished tied fifth in last week’s Alstom Open de France, will feature in a strong Scottish contingent that includes Stephen Gallacher, who was tied fourth 12 months ago, 1999 champion Colin Montgomerie, former Masters and Open Champion Sandy Lyle, and Martin Laird, the current highest Scotsman on the Official World Golf Ranking in 25th position.
Castle Stuart Golf Links follows in the footsteps of Downfield, St Andrews, Haggs Castle, The Gleneagles Hotel, Carnoustie and Loch Lomond, which staged the tournament from 1996 to 2010.
Co-designed by Managing Partner Mark Parsinen – who was also responsible for the design of Kingsbarns in Fife – and American golf course architect Gil Hanse, the course was voted as Best New Course for 2009 by Golf Magazine USA.
As well as an historic new venue for the tournament, this week will also be a landmark for Irishman Paul McGinley, who marks his 500th Official European Tour appearance, becoming just the 20th player to reach the milestone.
McGinley was third in the event in 2001 and admits it will be a proud occasion to join the illustrious 500 group, which is headed by Scotsman Sam Torrance with 706 appearances.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in the Scottish Open which historically is one of our biggest events,” said the 44 year old. “I’ve heard a lot about the new course at Castle Stuart and I’m very much looking forward to playing there.”
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