Lowdown:
The European Tour travels back to Scotland this week for the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Paul Lawrie defends the title at the venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Lawrie will be part of a strong home challenge this week with Marc Warren, winner of this tournament in 2007, coming into the event on the back of his best ever performance in a Major – he was tied 12th in the USPGA Championship at Oak Hill. Other Scots on the start sheet include Scott Jamieson and Stephen Gallacher – both winners on the 2013 European Tour, and Greig Hutcheon (featured in this March’s GM) who recently won the Scottish PGA Championship.

Other star names set to tee it up this week include Ross Fisher, Alvaro Quiros, Thomas Bjorn and Francesco Molinari.

This event has, since 2008, had a strong affinity with the Ryder Cup. In odd years, it’s been the final qualifying event for the great biennial contest. It’s also been the venue where the European captain has announced his wildcard selections.

This tournament began life as the Scottish PGA Championship back in 1999 and this will be the 15th running of the event. Past winners have included, Paul Casey, Adam Scott and Marc Warren.

Last year home favourite Paul Lawrie produced four solid rounds in the 60s to cruise home to the title, four strokes clear of Australia’s Brett Rumford.

With preparations for The Ryder Cup set to be in full swing this time next year, The Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles will not feature on The 2014 European Tour International Schedule, returning to The Race to Dubai for 2015.

Jack Nicklaus designed the Centenary course at Gleneagles and it opened for play in 1993, though at the time it was known as the Monarch’s. Over recent years, the course has undergone a number of changes to perfect the test that will be presented to Europe and the USA’s finest in 2014. Firstly, alterations were made under the guidance of David McLay Kidd, then Jack Nicklaus himself provided further consultation.

Venue: PGA Centenary Course, The Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland
Date: Aug 22-25
Course stats: par 72, 7,060 yards
Purse: €1,640,000 Winner: €272,272
Defending Champion: Paul Lawrie (-16)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 22 – Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Friday 23 – Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Saturday 24 – Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Sunday 25 – Sky Sports 3 from 12pm

Player Watch:
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – The Spaniard played solidly in both the Open and the USPGA Championship. He’s been consistent if not spectacular this season, but this could be the event where he lights the blue touch paper. He was tied 10th here last year.

Brett Rumford – Currently 10th in the Race to Dubai, he’s gone off form slightly following two straight wins in May. But, he was second to Paul Lawrie here last year and second in 2010. He’s clearly a horse for this course.

Richie Ramsay – Another man who hasn’t excelled in 2013 and will be looking to change his fortunes. He was tied sixth here last year and will be spurred on by the home support.

Key hole: 18th. An exciting finishing hole that has been re-shaped to create an amphitheatre-style green. It’s seen some thrilling moments in recent years. In 2011, Thomas Bjorn took the title on the fifth extra trip down the home hole after five men had been tied atop the leaderboard after 72 holes. The year before, Edoardo Molinari birdied the hole to claim the victory and secure a wildcard pick for the Ryder Cup.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
The Barclays preview