The Scottish Open is back at Renaissance Club but this year’s tournament is going to present a very different challenge from what we faced a year ago.
Bernd Wiesberger won the play-off here in 2019, but despite returning to the same venue we will be playing a different set-up to 15 months ago.
So, how different a challenge will it be? Well, besides the course playing longer, there are new tees and the rough is much thicker for starters. It looks fantastic with tight fairways and firm greens.
I’m a member here and I’ve spent as much time as I can here familiarising myself with the course, but even though I played the Scottish Open last summer and have played here all year, I only played the championship layout for the first time on Tuesday.
For example, holes 10 to 15 will be the first six holes we’ll play in our round. The idea is to create a picturesque finish along the water and the final three holes will certainly provide a tougher finish.
But honestly, I’d struggle to recall the 18 holes in order as I have three different routes in my head.
It is a straightforward links course – a course for drivers and if you can find the fairways you’re in good shape. However, it’s a links course, so it can be very different from one day to the next.
You could be standing on the tee with the wind in your face having to take out the driver, while the next day with the wind at your back it’s a five iron.
But what holds true is you drift into the heavy stuff you are going to have a bit of work to do. If you land on the green the ball may run straight through, so approach shots require a little more finesse too.
That’s links golf in a nutshell and it will require some thought to navigate the challenges The Renaissance Club presents.
It should be a test though. After all, this week and next week at Wentworth are Rolex Series events and, with $7 million at stake, we should expect a tough challenge.
The stakes are high for the reasons I outlined last week – these two massive back-to-back tournaments can change your season. A good week here then another solid showing in seven days’ time can open the door in terms of the end of the season.
The quality of the field reflects the importance and, with 15 Scots in the field, we have a one in nine chance of a home winner. It would be great to see that happen on Sunday.
Eerie feeling made situation hit home
It really hit home this week just how much havoc coronavirus has wreaked on the schedule.
It’s great to be playing the Scottish Open, even if it is three months later than planned, but this should also been the week when we would hopefully be basking in the glory of a Ryder Cup win for Europe.
Would we have won it? Of course, but we’ll just have to wait a year until we see the champagne corks fly to toast another European win on US soil.
The fact we are even getting a Scottish Open to play in speaks volumes of the efforts of everyone at the European Tour not to write the season off and try again in 2021. That would have been the easy option so credit to Keith Pelley and his staff for their work.
It’s weird walking around the course and not seeing any grandstands. I know we’ll have some spectators here at the weekend, but the Scottish Open is an event where I’m normally inundated with requests for tickets. The butterflies hit you in a home event, but there is an eerie feeling to this one knowing I won’t walk down the fairways and see family and friends supporting me.
But to still have this tournament taking place is an achievement everyone involved should be proud of.
Catlin’s quality was on show in ireland
John Catlin reinforced just how good a player he is with his win at the Irish Open on Sunday. The toughest courses we’ve played on this year have been at Valderrama and Galgorm and John won both events.
To win one is a great week’s work; to take the title on two of the toughest tracks all year is exceptional.
I feel I had a lot of positives to take from my trip to Ireland, despite a disappointing final round on Sunday. It was the coldest morning on record at the course, but I cannot speak highly enough of the venue. The biggest compliment I can pay is that I hope we go back.
For my part, the week summed up where my form is at right now in that I seem to have two good rounds and two poor ones.
The focus this week will be on making the bad shots as good as I can and doing what I can to put myself in the frame on the back nine on Sunday.