A high-class field converges on the idyllic Loch Lomond Golf Club on Thursday for the 2006 renewal of the Barclays Scottish Open. The prestigious tournament represents the final chance for players to fine-tune their games ahead of next week?s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

While many leading Americans have once again shunned the event in favour of their traditional Open preparations on the links courses of Ireland, no less than eight of the world?s top twenty players have confirmed their participation at Loch Lomond. Advance ticket sales are up 25% on last year?s event, making it one of the most eagerly awaited competitions of the European season so far.

Former winners Tim Clark (2005), Tom Lehman (1997), Ernie Els (2000 & 2003), Retief Goosen (2001) and Colin Montgomerie (1999) will be joined by, among others, Jose Maria Olazabal and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia. Garcia returns to Loch Lomond after a seven-year absence, having finished top amateur in 1998 and second overall in 1999.

The exclusive Loch Lomond course, set on the banks of one of Scotland?s most famous stretches of water, has rapidly earned a place amongst the finest and most beautiful courses in the world since it opened in 1994. The highly respected American Golf Digest ranks it as the 21st best course in the world. The fact that it offers little in terms of suitable preparation for the challenges of The Open?s links courses does not detract from its massive appeal, especially to former winners of the event.

Els describes it as ?probably the best course in Europe? and ?among the top five? of his worldwide golfing venues. Lehman, the US captain for the 2006 Ryder Cup, ranks it even higher. In his esteemed opinion ?only Pebble Beach beats it in terms of beauty?. Players and spectators alike are in for a rare treat over the next few days.