Donald headlines stellar Scottish field

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the World Nos 1 and 2, head up the formidable field contesting this week’s Scottish Open.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the World Nos 1 and 2, head up the formidable field contesting this week’s Barclay’s Scottish Open in the Scottish Highlands.

Along with the two highly ranked Englishmen, the stellar field also includes nine Major Champions, 23 Ryder Cup players, 96 golfers who have won on The European Tour and 14 who have triumphed on the US PGA Tour – and with good reason.

Castle Stuart Golf Links is hosting the championship for the first time and this has clearly been welcomed by many of the world’s leading players who have been suggesting for some time now that the curtain-raiser to the annual Open Championship, the third major of the season, should be played on a links course to help them ready themselves for their big battle for golf’s oldest and arguably most prestigious major in the following week.

Well, this week they’ve got what they wanted. a links course for the 140th Open Championship…

Castle Stuart near Inverness is a classic links golf course that poses all the problems normally associated with World renowned ancient Scottish links layouts like Carnoustie and the Old Course at St Andrews and the English equivalent, Royal St George’s, which is way down South at Sandwich in Kent, will host the 14th edition of The Open Championship.

The 29th edition of the Scottish Open was moved this year from world renowned Loch Lomond, to its seventh home since it’s inception in 1972 and to mark the occasion and the 10th year of Barclays Bank sponsorship a new trophy has been commissioned.
Donald and Westwood took centre stage the last time both played in the same European Tour event in Britain and it was Donald defeated his compatriot in a play-off for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.

The Scottish Open thus gives Westwood the chance to avenge that defeat, reclaim the title he won in 1998 at Loch Lomond, take away a first prize of £500,000 and win back the World Number One spot. .

Edoardo Molinari the event’s finale at Loch Lomond when he finished three shots clear of Darren Clarke.

Molinari might find the going a lot tougher at Castle Stuart, though, when he defends his title this week.

For apart from the fact that the course will be new to him as it will be to most, he will also have to face as formidable a field as ever assembled for the event.

Apart from the Donald and Westwood, it will also including four-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson, the American who lost in a play-off here to Frenchman Grégory Havret in 2007, Graeme McDowell, the tournament champion the following year and winner of the 2010 US Open, as well as the lanky American star Matt Kuchar, whose presence in effect, means that five out of the world’s top ten will descend on the Moray Firth coast this week.

In-form Richie Ramsay, who finished tied fifth in last week’s Alstom Open de France, is probably the standout in the strong Scottish contingent that includes Stephen Gallacher, who tied for fourth at Loch Lomond 12 months ago, former Masters and Open Champion Sandy Lyle, Martin Laird, currently the highest Scotsman on the Official World Golf Ranking list and Colin Montgomerie who dominated the European Order of Merit Crown like never before – or after – during the 1990s

Castle Stuart Golf Links is the 7th club to host the Scottish Open after St Andrews, Haggs Castle, The Gleneagles Hotel, Carnoustie and Loch Lomond, which staged the tournament from 1996 to 2010.

Co-designed by Managing Partner Mark Parsinen – who was also responsible for the design of Kingsbarns in Fife – and American golf course architect Gil Hanse, the course was voted as Best New Course for 2009 by Golf Magazine USA.

As well as an historic new venue for the tournament, this week will also be a landmark for Irishman Paul McGinley, who marks his 500th Official European Tour appearance, becoming just the 20th player to reach this impressive milestone.

McGinley, third in the event in 2001, admits it will be a proud occasion to join the illustrious 500 group, which is headed by Scotsman Sam Torrance (706th appearances).

“I’ve always enjoyed playing in the Scottish Open which historically is one of our biggest events,” said the 44-year-old. “I’ve heard a lot about the new course at Castle Stuart and I’m very much looking forward to playing there.”

So are a host of others