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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: The Scottish Open looks to be secure for another generation

Xander Schauffele won the Genesis Scottish Open from a superb field on a brilliant week in East Lothian. Image: Shutterstock.
Xander Schauffele won the Genesis Scottish Open from a superb field on a brilliant week in East Lothian. Image: Shutterstock.

An old colleague of mine, now passed, used to constantly express his concern about the future of the Scottish Open.

This was right in the midst of what appeared to be the event’s salad days. Aberdeen Asset – under their various guises – and the Scottish Government through VisitScotland put their shoulders to the wheel to build the tournament into a properly international event.

My friend was the archetypal glass-half-empty, voice-of-doom Scot, of course. But, he often asked, what would happen if Aberdeen were to pull out? What if there’s a change of government? What if it loses US network coverage?

Up another level

Well, in the end Aberdeen did step back. And the Genesis Scottish Open, as it is now known, has gone up to a level we just could not imagine 10 years ago.

Last week’s new, shiny version of the Scottish at the Renaissance Club was a huge success. It felt like it had taken a massive surge in importance from the off, with the co-sanctioning, the half-and-half field and the enhanced prizefund.

Player after player said it felt like a premier international event. Genesis (they’re the luxury brand of Korean car company Hyundai) put their product and tasteful black branding everywhere, and the hospitality pavilion was a new standard of quality.

The Renaissance as a course has not had much love in the past. But almost all there noted with approval the various adjustments made by Jerry Sarvadi and his team to Tom Doak’s original design.

It’s utterly unfair to compare the course to the many legacy links of Scotland. Most of them won’t host the Scottish Open for a variety of reasons.

Few of them are suitable for an annual elite championship event in terms of infrastructure. Yes, we’d love to play an elite tournament on Western Gailes or Royal Dornoch, but it’s not happening.

The course is probably not comparable to the new links gems like Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart – yet. But it certainly has the potential to be of that standard if they continue to tweak and improve it in the manner they’ve been doing.

Facilities few can match

Sarvadi and his team certainly have the will, the resources and the facilities for the players.

There’s no question that what Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm found staying onsite there in 2021 was related back. It resulted in almost a full house of top names staying at the palatial dormie house.

Perhaps similar voice-of-mouth about the pace, firmness and speed of the course will get back to Rory McIlroy. He was the only one of the world’s top 15 who did not show up.

Word was that Genesis were thrilled with the week. While it was initially a one-year arrangement, they’re definitely not going to stop at that.

Holyrood is still all-in. It’s unlikely there’s going to be a change of administration there. And the tournament as a priceless shop window for Scotland as a tourist destination is now settled policy, no matter the colour of party in charge.

Now it’s co-sanctioned, it’s part of the PGA Tour’s TV deal. So while the continued involvement of the US TV networks means we have ludicrous 8pm finishes like the weekend, those pictures going out across the world are absolute gold-dust.

What was the other pointer that this REALLY matters now? Maybe that those four LIV Golf players took the DP World Tour to arbitration to ensure they’d get to play in it.

After the furore for that died down – in about the time it took Ian Poulter to shoot 78 in the first round – LIV was barely mentioned, but for one late matter detailed below.

So, my old friend, the Scottish Open looks absolutely solid and secure as a quality championship beyond even what’s left of my days.

And that’s a cause for real satisfaction.

Lies, damned lies and rumours

Greg Norman’s been snubbed from the 150th Open celebrations. LIV Golf are unlikely to find their “demand” to be accorded world ranking status gets granted. So perhaps we can have a welcome break from the civil wars this week.

It’s still likely we’ll be subjected to more unsubstantiated rumour and general BS. Such was the case last week when an anonymous twitter account directly asserted Jordan Spieth was joining LIV.

Worse, without any other evidence than this trash tweet, some (previously) reputable publications re-reported the “rumours” as if they had a semblance of foundation.

Spieth is actually a player rep on the PGA Tour board. He immediately and categorically issued a statement denying this was happening and stressing his commitment to the tour.

He conceded later that he’d probably not been vocal enough about his position. Collin Morikawa had been forced to make a similar statement a couple of weeks before.

The finger-pointing

It’s unseemly that there’s finger-pointing going on both sides.

If you’re not shouting your loyalty to the established tours from the rooftops, it seems, then immediately you’re under suspicion of defecting to LIV.

At the same time, many suspect LIV are feeding the rumour frenzy in the hope of tipping the scales of defections in their favour.

To be entirely fair, the evidence for this is about as solid as the misinformation about Spieth and Morikawa.

Golf’s grapevine is shoogling wildly at the moment, but there’s precious little of substance there.

Unless it comes straight from the horse’s mouth, the best thing to do is ignore it. Especially if it comes from a source unwilling to identify themselves.