Lowdown:
The European Tour travels to the Moray Firth this week for the Barclays Scottish Open at the magnificent Castle Stuart Golf Links. Edoardo Molinari defends a title he won last year at Loch Lomond.

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

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. It was a new entry in Golf Monthly’s most recent top-100 ranking at number 25.

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.

With just a week until the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, an impressive field has assembled in Inverness-shire to contest this the 29th edition of the Scottish Open.

Five of the world’s top-10 players are on the start sheet, including the Number 1 and 2 ranked players, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Graeme McDowell are the others inside the top-10 who will tee it up at Castle Stuart.

Martin Laird will lead a strong home contingent while two-time former champion Ernie Els is one of the tournament invitees.

It will be a memorable week for Paul McGinley. The Irishman will be making his 500th official European Tour start, becoming just the 20th player to reach that landmark.

As the event has moved from Loch Lomond, a new trophy has been unveiled for the event. A sterling silver bowl, it was designed and fashioned by Hamilton & Inches of Edinburgh.

Venue:
Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness
Date: Jul 7 – 10
Course stats: par 72, 7,050 yards
Purse: €3,320,000 Winner: €550,000
Defending Champion: Edoardo Molinari (-12)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Friday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Saturday 9 – Live on BBC 2 from 1pm
Sunday 10 – Live on BBC 2 from 1.30pm

Player Watch:
Luke Donald – The challenging, sloping greens and run-off areas mean a deft short game will be key to success at Castle Stuart. Donald is the best in the business from close in so look for him to shine here.

Graeme McDowell – A former Scottish Open winner, McDowell will be looking to come back to form in time for the year’s third Major. This course should suit his game. It’s a layout where the players will plot their way round, taking chances when they are presented but playing cautiously when it’s demanded.

Nicolas Colsaerts – The Belgian won the China Open earlier this season and was third in the Volvo Match Play. He finished 11th last week in France. He’s a huge hitter and finds a high percentage of greens in regulation.

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?
Equipment:
New Titleist 712 irons