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The Open Champions Who Played in the Scottish Open

By: Golfshake Editor | Thu 08 Jul 2021 | Comments

First played in 1972 and 1973, before it was relaunched in 1986, the Scottish Open has typically been scheduled immediately before the Open Championship, a prime spot on the European Tour calendar, where many of the world's best players compete for a prestigious title while preparing for the game's oldest major.

However, does playing in the Scottish Open serve as the perfect prelude to the Open? Well, looking at those who ultimately became the Champion Golfer of the Year, it's a mixed bag, with a significant number of the golfers who etched their name on the Claret Jug having skipped the previous week and practiced quietly away from the spotlight.

For many years, the event was hosted at Gleneagles and Loch Lomond, with the tournament's move to links-style courses a decade ago quickly ushering in a period that saw successive Open champions benefit from their Scottish Open experience, but that trend has stopped in recent years.

We take a look at those Champion Golfers who did compete at the Scottish Open - and those who did not.

The Open Champions Who Played in the Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy

Nick Faldo was a regular visitor to the Scottish Open at Gleneagles. In 1987, the Englishman finished T-21st in Perthshire, before winning his first major at Muirfield. Then in 1990, ahead of his masterclass at St Andrews, Faldo was T-5th at the Glen. Finally, he was back on the King's Course and finished T-3rd leading into his third Open success at Muirfield in 1992.

For the next Scottish Open competitor who then won the Open, you have to spring forward to 1999, when Paul Lawrie's astonishing comeback triumph at Carnoustie electrified the home fans. The Scotsman was T-59th at Loch Lomond a week earlier.

Into the new Millennium and twice a winner at Loch Lomond, Ernie Els got his hands on the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2002, seven days after he finished a modest T-50th on the other side of Scotland. Els' compatriot Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut at the Scottish Open the week before he ran away with the championship at St Andrews in 2010.

Despite that, the stunning course was logically not ideal preparation for the Open, so beginning in 2011, the Scottish Open headed to the seaside, first at Castle Stuart and Royal Aberdeen. 

In that first year in the Highlands, Darren Clarke finished T-66th before his emotional Open victory at Royal St George's. That was emulated by another veteran - Els again - in 2012, who was T-52nd at Castle Stuart before he won at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

However, no one can match Phil Mickelson, who did the double, winning both the Scottish Open and Open Championship in consecutive weeks, a remarkable fortnight that further cemented his legendary status.

Before his Open breakthrough at Royal Liverpool, Rory McIlroy finished T-14th at Royal Aberdeen, and Henrik Stenson was T-13th at Castle Stuart the week before his extraordinary duel with Mickelson at Royal Troon in 2016.

However, since the event moved to Gullane, Dundonald Links and The Renaissance Club, a Scottish Open competitor hasn't then gone on to win the Open. The likes of Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa will be hoping that run changes in 2021. 

The Open Champions Who Did Not Play in the Scottish Open

Jordan Spieth

Not every player wants to play competitively before a major, making the Scottish Open an unappealing option. And when you see these champions, it's hard to argue with that strategy:

Shane Lowry (2019), Jordan Spieth (2017), Stewart Cink (2009), Tiger Woods (2006, 2005, 2000), Ben Curtis (2003), Mark O'Meara (1998), Justin Leonard (1997), Tom Lehman (1996), John Daly (1995), Nick Price (1994), Greg Norman (1993), Mark Calcavecchia (1989), Seve Ballesteros (1988) and Tom Weiskopf (1973) didn't play in either the Scottish Open or the equivalent tournament on the PGA Tour.

There are several Champion Golfers who elected to play in North America before the Open, a status most recently taken by the John Deere Classic. Francesco Molinari (2018), Zach Johnson (2015) and Todd Hamilton (2004) all competed at TPC Deere Run before making the journey across the Atlantic, while 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch actually lost a playoff at the New England Classic before his triumph at Royal Birkdale, with Lee Trevino finishing in a tie for 10th at the Canadian Open before he secured the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 1972.

Padraig Harrington, most uniquely, played in and won the Irish PGA Championship before his consecutive Open wins in 2007 and 2008.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong away to prepare for the Open, but the numbers suggest that taking the previous week off entirely isn't a bad approach. 

But those competing in East Lothian will be hoping that it sets them up for success at Royal St George's.

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How Scottish Open Champions Performed at The Open

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