Lowdown: The Johnnie Walker Championship returns to the majestic surroundings of Gleneagles where Sweden’s Peter Hedblom will defend the title. A strong field is assembled for this, the final event counting towards Ryder Cup team qualification.
The tension will be high in the Scottish glens this week as Francesco Molinari, last week’s Czech Open winner Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez look to do enough to remain in seventh, eighth and ninth spots on the Ryder Cup points list. The men who could force there way in are Alvaro Quiros, Simon Dyson and Ross McGowan. The first two must win to stand a chance while McGowan will have to finish second or better.
At the conclusion of the tournament, European captain Colin Montgomerie will also announce his three Wildcard picks for Celtic Manor. With Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Justin Rose all outside the places, the Scotsman will have a difficult decision to make.
Montgomerie is part of a strong Scottish contingent participating in this year’s Johnnie Walker Championship, with Stephen Gallacher, Paul Lawrie and 2007 champion Marc Warren in the field. Sam Torrance has also confirmed his participation – it will be his 706th European Tour start.
Set in the stunning Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles has been host to this event since 1999 and the PGA Centenary Course is regarded highly amongst the European Tour professionals.
The course opened for play in 1993. A Jack Nicklaus design, it was originally known as the Monarchs Course, though significant alterations have been made to the layout since then. In 2014 the Centenary Course will welcome the Ryder Cup.
Last season, Peter Hedblom fired an excellent closing round of 67 to deny his countryman Martin Erldandsson by a single shot. Scotland’s Paul Lawrie was tied for third with Gregory Havret of France. Havret was winner of this event in 2008.
Venue: Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire
Date: Aug 26-29
Course stats: par 72, 7,316 yards
Purse: £1,400,000 Winner: £282,772
Defending Champion: Peter Hedblom (-13)
Thursday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Friday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Saturday 28 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Sunday 29 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12pm
Edoardo Molinari – With a victory here, Molinari could affect Montgomerie’s Wildcard selections. If brother Francesco secures his spot it would be difficult for the Scot to overlook Edoardo. The Italians proved what a strong partnership they make with victory at last year’s World Cup.
Robert Karlsson – Another man who could capture Monty’s attention if he puts in a solid performance. The Swede has played in the last two Ryder Cups and will be looking to make Montgomerie’s post-tournament decision even more complicated.
Gregory Havret – Winner in 2008 and tied third last year, the Frenchman has had a poor season but his second place finish at the US Open confirmed his world-class credentials.
Key hole: 16th. A strong par 5 measuring 543 yards, it’s reachable in two but a water hazard short of the green makes it risky. It’s a chance to pick up shots and if a player is trailing narrowly down the stretch expect them to have a pop at it.
Skills required: Coping with the pressure. For those players still in the mix for a Ryder Cup spot, this will be a stressful week. The challenge for Quiros, McGowan, Dyson, Karlsson, Molinari etc. will be to feed off the pressure and produce a clinical display.