A host of star players are at Castle Stuart this week for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Henrik Stenson Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer are among those on the start list.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is the top-ranked player in the field and he’ll be joined on the Moray Firth by the likes of Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Martin Kaymer and home favourite Russell Knox.
Knox comes from nearby Inverness and he will be aiming to become the first home winner of this tournament since Colin Montgomerie triumphed at Loch Lomond in 1999. The 31-year-old who won last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions began playing golf at Nairn Dunbar – just a few miles east of Castle Stuart.
There’s a final chance for players to qualify for The Open Championship this week. Four places at Royal Troon will be on offer to the leading four players not otherwise exempt for the championship (as long as they finish within the top-12 and ties at Castle Stuart.)
After narrowly missing out on an Open place in Final Qualifying at Glasgow Gailes, Ayrshire’s Jack Doherty bounced back by coming through Scottish Open qualifying at Moray. The others earning their start at Castle Stuart via that route were Alastair Forsyth, Peter Whiteford, Gareth Wright and Kris Nicol.
The Scottish Open was on the schedule for the first year of the European Tour in 1972 when England’s Neil Coles was the winner. The tournament disappeared from the schedule after 1973 but it was re-established in the 1980s. For eight years the competition was held over the King’s Course at Gleneagles with winners like Ian Woosnam and Jesper Parnevik. There were then two years at Carnoustie before the event moved to Loch Lomond in 1996.
After 15 years at Loch Lomond, from 1996 to 2010, the Scottish Open spent three years at Castle Stuart where Luke Donald, Jeev Milkha Singh and Phil Mickelson were victorious. After visiting Royal Aberdeen and Gullane, the event returns to Castle Stuart this season.
Set on the stunning Moray Firth coastline, the spectacular course at Castle Stuart features dramatic changes in elevation, wispy grasses, rumpled fairways and sloping greens, it’s a fantastic modern take on the classic Scottish links.
The weather forecast for the week is a little mixed and a combination of sunshine and showers looks likely.
Venue: Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland
Date: Jul 7-10
Course stats: par 72, 7,193 yards
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler (-12)
Thursday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Friday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Saturday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 2.40pm
Sunday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 2.30pm
Henrik Stenson – He comes into this event on the back of victory in the BMW International Open so is clearly on great form. He finished tied third at Castle Stuart in 2013.
Henrik Stenson swing sequence:
Branden Grace – The South African is another player who can draw on good past performances at Castle Stuart – he lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson over this course in 2013. He was tied 5th in the U.S. Open.
Alex Noren – The Swede showed good form in last week’s Open de France, finishing in 8th place. He’s a talented player and he has enjoyed success on this course. He was tied for third in 2012.
Key hole: 7th. A par 4 of 464 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.