Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Scottish Open Can Provide Crucial Clues to Open Championship

This year's Scottish Open Golf Championship has attracted a fantastic field, five of which sit in the world’s top ten. Most of the field, including these five will be playing the Castle Stuart Golf Links in the Scottish Highlands for the first time and will be using the tournament as a major part of their preparations ahead of the Open Championships that begins at Royal St George's on Thursday 14th July.

The venue for the 2011 Scottish Open has changed this year from its usual site at Loch Lomond to the traditional links venue, which is designed to be a serious test of accuracy, course management and putting. It is a par 72 course which stretches over 7,000 yards and is the main reason that several of the biggest names in the sport are heading to Scotland to practice their links game ahead of the British Open.

Favourite to win is current world number two, Lee Westwood, who won this tournament in 1998. World number two, Luke Donald is second favourite in the betting but neither player has been seen in a tournament since the US Open last month, where Westwood, as he seemingly always does, gave a good account of himself by finishing in a tie for third place thus maintaining his very high level of form so far in 2011. Donald however disappointed at Congressional, finishing in a tie for 45th which was the first time he had finished outside of the top ten in his last eleven events. Both players remain second and third favourites behind Rory McIlroy in the British open odds and a good performance in this event will be crucial ahead of both looking to win their first "major".

As usual, the Scottish Open has attracted a lively challenge from the American tour, with world number six, Phil Mickelson and world number eight, Matt Kuchar, leading the way from across the Atlantic. Others making the trip from the PGA Tour include Adam Scott and Martin Laird whose consistency on the US Tour has seen him rise to number 25 in the world, making him the highest ranked of all Scottish players. Justin Rose is also over from the States as is Brandt Snedeker, who performed very well when tied 11th in the US Open.

One player hoping to bounce back to winning ways will be Graeme McDowell, who after four wins worldwide in 2010, including the US Open has failed to find any consistency in 2011. He did put up a good defence of his US Open crown, finishing in a tie for 14th but still couldn't challenge at the top of the leaderboard. McDowell is overdue a big performance, he loves links golf, has been working very hard on his swing and must be in with a big chance both in Scotland and at Sandwich .

Others who can be expected to put in good performances at Castle Stuart include, Ross Fisher, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. All three are great exponents of links golf and all, like McDowell are long overdue some form of success.

Defending champion of this event is Italian, Eduardo Molinari, whose form compared to that of last year has dipped sharply and has been responsible for his rapid drop in the world rankings where he is now down to number 34 from a previous high of 18th.

It may have to reside in the shadow of next week's 'main event' but the Scottish Open is a fantastic tournament and should provide plenty of pointers ahead of the third major of the season.

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