Lowdown:
The European Tour travels to the Moray Firth this week for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at the magnificent Castle Stuart Golf Links. India’s Jeev Milkha Singh is defending champion.

With just a week until the Open Championship at Muirfield, an impressive field has assembled in Inverness-shire to contest this, the 31st edition of the Scottish Open. Last year’s Open champion Ernie Els will tee it up, so too Phil Mickelson of the USA, Italy’s Matteo Manassero and Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

Darren Clarke won the Open at Royal St George’s having played at Castle Stuart the previous week and Ernie Els did the same thing at Lytham last year. The Scottish Open will be looking to score a hat-trick this week.

With seven Major winners, 21 Ryder Cup players and 18 of the 29 European Tour champions from the 2013 season teeing it up, there’s every chance of that happening.

Ernie Els, twice a winner of the Scottish Open in the past, is looking forward to the event.

“Playing links golf in Scotland is such a fantastic experience, especially on a beautiful course like Castle Stuart,” he said. “I have very fond memories of my two wins in the Scottish Open, and if I can win it a third time next week, it would be the perfect platform for my defence of The Open. The Scottish galleries are very knowledgeable, they really know their golf, so if we can get some decent weather we should be in for another great week.” 

The weather forecast looks set fair for the first three days of the tournament. The wind may pick up some on the Sunday and that could make for a testing last round.

There will be strong home representation from Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird, they’ll be ably supported by the likes of Stephen Gallacher, Richie Ramsay, Scott Jamieson and Mark Warren. Each of these men will be looking to become the first home winner of the title since Colin Montgomerie back in 1999.

Castle Stuart will host the Scottish Open for the third time this week. The links is just the seventh course to welcome the Scottish Open since it first became a stop on the European Tour back in 1972.

Last year, Jeev Milkha Singh of India took the title after a playoff with Italy’s Francesco Molinari. Scotland’s Marc Warren looked to have the title sewn up until he made a double bogey and two bogeys in his last four holes.

Co-designed by Mark Parsinen who was responsible for the design of Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart has already earned recognition as one of the finest new courses in the world. Set on the stunning Moray Firth coastline, the course features dramatic changes in elevation, wispy grasses, rumpled fairways and sloping greens, it’s a fantastic modern take on the classic Scottish links.

Venue: Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness
Date: Jul 11-14
Course stats: par 72, 7,193 yards
Purse: €3,320,000 Winner: €579,080
Defending Champion: Jeev Milkha Singh (-17)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm
Friday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm
Saturday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm
Sunday 14 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm

Player Watch:
Matteo Manassero – The young Italian stepped up a level in winning the BMW PGA Championship. He followed that with a tied fourth in the Nordea Masters and played solidly in both the recent BMW International Open and Alstom Open de France

Ross Fisher – The Englishman is threatening a return to form and this could be the week he produces the goods. He’s made the cut in every event he’s contested on this year’s European Tour.

Marc Warren – Last year he was tied third and Warren has shown good form in 2013. Tied second in the BMW PGA Championship and tied 13th last week in France, he could be best chance amongst the Scots in the field.

Key hole: 7th. A par 4 of 461 yards, if the wind is against it requires two good shots to get home. There’s plenty of room from the tee if you play up the right side but the further right you go the less green you can see from the fairway. The green itself looks to be perched on the edge of a cliff high above the sea – visually very intimidating.

Where next?
PGA Tour
John Deere Classic preview