Transforming the fortunes of the Scottish Open was one of the major achievements of George O’Grady’s time as the European Tour’s chief executive. His successor hopes to build on that legacy.
The future for the Scottish Open was bleak in October 2011 when Barclays announced it was ending its nine-year association with the event.
The bank had cited market forces as the reason behind its withdrawal and it left the European Tour with an almighty headache.
O’Grady managed to secure Aberdeen Asset Management as a title sponsor with the prize fund rising to £3million.
In recent years the events at Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen and Gullane have attracted some of the world’s best players, such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler.
Another stellar field is expected when the tournament returns to Castle Stuart for the fourth time next year.
Keith Pelley, the new European Tour chief executive, insists the Scottish Open will remain a key priority under his tenure.
He said: “There is no question about that.
“The fact we have secured commitment from both the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Asset Management through until 2020 is a superb platform for us to continue to build on the existing success of the tournament, not just here in Europe, but also in the United States through its showing on NBC – a first on American network television for a European Tour event.
“I have had many conversations with Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset Management’s chief executive, since I took office in August and we are both excited about the future for the tournament.”
One of Pelley’s tasks in the coming months will be to decide on future venues for the Scottish Open.
Aberdeen’s Trump International Links is among the courses tipped as a future host, but the Canadian says a venue for 2017 has yet to be decided.
He said: “We are still considering locations but in the meantime we are solely focused on ensuring the return of the tournament next year to Castle Stuart is a great success.”
Pelley has also been encouraged by the response to the inaugural Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play with the tournament returning to Murcar Links next year.
He believes there is also scope for more events on the tour that deviate from the traditional 72-hole stroke play format.
He added: “I arrived in the UK to start my job on the weekend of the first Paul Lawrie event and some of the golf I saw on television those two days was spectacular.
“Match play golf, by its very nature, is exciting and I am sure we will see more of that when the event returns to Murcar Links next August.
“I also want to thank Paul himself for his drive and determination in helping make this tournament happen.
“Ever since I arrived, the willingness of the players to help us grow the European Tour has been incredibly rewarding and energising, and Paul is a perfect example.
“Not only is he a great champion but he is a great ambassador for the game.
“As far as other formats of the game are concerned, as I said recently in Dubai, we are looking at experimenting.
“We will be trying different things in the near future.”