The European Tour heads for the Granite City this week where a stellar field has gathered to do battle for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open over the links at Royal Aberdeen.

Lowdown:
The European Tour heads for the Granite City this week where a stellar field has gathered to do battle for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open over the links at Royal Aberdeen.

With just a week to go until the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, some of the world’s very best players will look to hone their skills over the Balgownie links on the northern edge of Aberdeen. Among them will be defending Scottish Open champion, and defending Open champion, Phil Mickelson.

The American will face fierce opposition from one of the strongest fields to assemble on the regular European Tour in 2014. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Luke Donald will head the British challenge, but they’ll be ably supported by the likes of Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson and home favourite Stephen Gallacher. A number of Americans looking to practice on the links have travelled to Aberdeen and they include FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker and talented youngster Rickie Fowler.

There will be 10 Major champions playing this week with 26 Major titles between them. Ernie Els tees it up, so too Padraig Harrington and Sir Nick Faldo.

After 15 years at Loch Lomond, from 1996 to 2010, the Scottish Open spent three years on the Moray Firth at the exceptional Castle Stuart where Luke Donald, Jeev Milkha Singh and Phil Mickelson were victorious. The move to Royal Aberdeen is part of a plan to start a rota system to ensure the competition travels around Scotland.

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest club in the world and it’s been the venue for many notable events over the years including the 2005 Senior British Open (won by Tom Watson,) and the 2011 Walker Cup won by GB&I.

On course, the front-nine is considered by many to be one of the finest stretches of links holes in the UK. The 1st forges out from the clubhouse straight towards the North Sea before the layout turns to track the coastline and an exceptional run of challenging and eclectic holes follows. Carved through the dunes, the narrow and undulating fairways pass beautifully revetted pot-bunkers on the way to fast, sloping greens.

The weather forecast for the week looks changeable with the possibility of rain. It doesn’t look like being overly windy though, so the scoring could be low.

Venue: Royal Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland
Date: Jul 10-13
Course stats: par 71, 6,867 yards
Purse: €3,800,000 Winner: €627,000
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson (-17)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Friday 11 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Saturday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 2.30pm
Sunday 13 – Sky Sports 4 from 2.30pm

Player Watch:
The likes or McIlroy, Rose and Mickelson will be favourites this week. Who might just spring a surprise?

Louis Oosthuizen – A former Open champion, he’s well accustomed to the vagaries of the links.

Stephen Gallacher – Desperate to force himself into the Ryder Cup side, Gallacher will be looking for a good week in front of the home fans. He started well at the French Open last week but faded slightly over the weekend to finish tied 18th.

Paul Lawrie – Another man who Paul McGinley has urged to try and lift his game with a view towards Gleneagles. His form hasn’t been great but he says he’s been practising well at Balgownie and, with such a significant prize-fund on offer, a win here would turn his season around.

Key hole: It depends very much on the direction of the wind but, if it’s hurting on the home hole, it can be a brute. 441 yards and slightly uphill, the drive must be played to a narrow landing area that pinches in at 275 yard. The approach is to a raised green with pot bunkers and run-offs to contend with. Par to win here could be a tough ask.