The Northern Irishman clocks up his 20th appearance in the tournament, from July 11-14, as he seeks to recapture the spirit which helped inspire him to Major Championship glory at the age of 42 at Royal St.George’s back in 2011.
Remarkably, Clarke will be teeing up professionally in Scotland, the Home of Golf, for the 53rd time in total, encompassing 20 Scottish Opens, 12 Open Championships, 12 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships, six Alfred Dunhill Cups and three Johnnie Walker Championships.
Clarke, a winner of 14 titles on The European Tour in a glittering professional career spanning more than two decades, returns to Inverness for the 2013 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open knowing that the stunning links provides the perfect stage from which to launch another Open Championship challenge.
Two years ago, the five-time Ryder Cup player from Portrush fired rounds of 69, 67 and 75 to finish down the field in the rain-shortened event, but the opportunity to re-acquaint himself with the eccentricities of links golf was a powerful launch pad for the following week in Kent.
Clarke, who made his Scottish Open debut at Gleneagles in 1992, has come agonisingly close to winning the title on a number of occasions, most notably in 2003, 2005 and 2010 when only one player finished ahead of him on each occasion.
Seven times in the top ten, Clarke was tied second in 2003 behind Ernie Els and occupied the same position two years later, when Tim Clark captured the title. In 2010 he finished runner-up on his own, three shots behind the champion Edoardo Molinari, who also returns to Scotland for this year’s championship with his eye on a second crown.
Clarke went on to play the golf of his life in the 2011 Open Championship, savouring the finest moment of his distinguished career by claiming the Claret Jug by three strokes from Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
He said: “I am looking forward enormously to getting back to Castle Stuart. I grew up on links courses in Northern Ireland and have always had a special affinity with that style of golf. Of course, it eventually paid off when I finally won The Open at Royal St. George’s two years ago.
“It was a moment I will never forget, but I also appreciate the importance of playing the previous week at Castle Stuart. It’s the ideal way to prepare for Muirfield this year, but I would love nothing better than to head into The Open with the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title under my belt.
“I’ve been very close in the past, as my record proves, and I have always enjoyed playing in the event down the years. There is always a high quality field and it’s just the sort of intense competition I need to get into the right physical and mental shape to tackle The Open.”
A world class field is assembling at Castle Stuart, which hosts the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open for the third consecutive year before the tournament moves to Royal Aberdeen in 2014.
Major Champions Clarke, Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie are joined by defending champion Jeev Milkha Singh, new BMW PGA champion Matteo Manassero and a host of other European Tour winners and Ryder Cup players on the banks of the Moray Firth.
A season ticket can still be bought for £70 in advance of the tournament, a saving of £10 on admission at the gate. Adult day tickets are currently priced at £30, rising to £35 on the gate.
Concessions (60 and over) start at £50 for a season ticket and £20 for any one day tickets if purchased in advance. Under-16s accompanied by an adult are admitted free of charge and all car parking is also free.
Entrance to the Pro-Am on Wednesday is £12 in advance and £15 on the day.
Reserved grandstand seating can also be purchased immediately for the Saturday (£10) and the Sunday (£15) of the event. Hospitality packages are also available.
Additionally, new summer ‘stay and play’ packages are available via Castle Stuart on www.castlestuartgolf.com/stay-and-play.php
Full ticket information can be found at: www.aamscottishopen.com or www.europeantour.com/tickets or telephone Ticket Hotline: +440800 023 2557. Postal enquiries should be sent to: European Tour Tickets, Mirren Court Three, 123 Renfrew Court Three, Paisley, PA3 4EA.