Summer Majors Underline Importance of Scottish Opens
Want to contend in the Open Championship or Ricoh Women's British Open? The key seems to be playing in the equivalent Scottish Open a week previously on a links course, which has cited by several players as vital to their preparation.
- Seven of the top ten finishers at Royal Birkdale played in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links the week before.
- Eight of the top ten finishers at Kingsbarns played in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links the week before including all of the top five.
For many of the top ten finishers at both events, one of the biggest takeaways has to be that preparation at the Scottish Open - on a links course in links weather – gave them a significant advantage when it came to competing at the Major the following week.
Six of the last eight Claret Jug winners have warmed-up in the home of golf at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, with American Matt Kuchar very nearly adding his name to that list - only for Jordan Spieth to claim an astonishing victory at Royal Birkdale last month.
“The Scottish Open was a perfect tune-up for Birkdale,” said Kuchar. “We had a couple of awfully challenging days at the Scottish Open. I remember being on the course at one point on the Saturday having 129 yards to the pin at the 12th and hitting a 6-iron. I thought to myself, ‘I am glad I’m over here doing this."
Those that also seemed to benefit from teeing it up at this year’s Scottish Open were third-placed Haotong Li from China as well as the two players in joint-fourth – Rory McIlroy and Scottish Open Champion, Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Throw in Alex Noren, Matthew Southgate and Branden Grace who all finished tied sixth at The Open, and the value in preparing on a links course and the Scottish Open is obvious.
On the other hand, those that didn’t prepare at the Scottish Open did seem to regret their decision. Phil Mickelson, who completed back to back victories at the 2013 Scottish Open and Open Championship at Muirfield, failed to make it to the weekend at Royal Birkdale and put some of that down to skipping the opportunity to play at Dundonald.
“I think playing a week before at the Scottish is very helpful and it may have made a difference,” said Mickelson. “It’s hard to say, but this further proves that when I don’t play the week before a major, I am often not as sharp and ready to play as I need to be.”
Not only did those players that took a week off the week before The Open fair worse with their results, but those that played in the opposite PGA Tour event to the Scottish Open (John Deere Classic) also failed to reach the dizzy heights of the leaderboard. Not one of the John Deere field finished in the top 10 at The Open and the average score of those that made the cut was +1.4 shots more than those that played the Scottish Open.
In the women’s game, all of the top five finishers at last week’s Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns (In-Kyung Kim, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Michelle Wie, Caroline Masson, Georgia Hall), prepared by playing links golf in unfavourable weather conditions at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open the week before.
South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim, who finished tied ninth at the Ladies Scottish Open, held off a brilliant challenge from England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff to claim her first major title at Kingsbarns and both Kim and Shadoff acknowledged how valuable a two week stretch of links golf really was.
“I think playing last week in the Scottish Open really helped me with the weather and the wind and everything,” said Shadoff. “I’ve typically never played well in links golf but this year I’ve been working with my coach a lot and he’s helped me control my ball flight.”
Thoughts also echoed by tied third place finisher, Michelle Wie.
"I felt like I struggled a little bit in the past at British Opens, so I made it a point to come to the Scottish Open last week and get some good practice in," said Wie, whose previous best finish at the Women's British Open was also tied third 12 years ago. "I felt like that really helped me a lot, just getting used to playing links golf as it is so different."
World no.2, Lexi Thompson, was one of the bigger named players to skip the newly co-sanctioned LET/LPGA Ladies Scottish Open this year and despite finishing tied 11th it may not be that long before Scottish golf fans get to see her preparing differently.
On whether she would consider playing Gullane next year, Thompson said, “Yeah, definitely. It is a good warmup to get used to the weather conditions coming over. And then before a major, it's important.”
For title sponsors of both events Aberdeen Asset Management, it is clear that if a player wants to do well in The Open or Women’s British Open they know where to come.
Martin Gilbert, CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management said, “The Scottish Opens have proven to be ideal preparation for The Open or Women’s British Open. Playing links tournament golf the week before these two majors has been the secret weapon for golfers in recent seasons.
“After the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale and Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns the value is even more obvious. To have so many of the top ten finishers at both events play in the Scottish Open the week before is testament to the strength of both tournaments.
“I would say it’s a no-brainer to play at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open or Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane next year.”
The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will return to East Lothian next year when Gullane Golf Club hosts Scotland’s National Open for the second time from July 12-15, 2018.
This will be followed two weeks later by the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open played over the same course from July 26-29, 2018.
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