Well golfers, the links season is almost upon us and this is by far my favourite portion of the golf season! The European Tour stops in Paris this week for the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National. There will be three places at The Open Championship up for grabs this week, along with a few spots at the Greenbrier on the PGA Tour. After that, it’s the Scottish Open.
It’s the Scottish Open that I would like to talk about this week. Of course being Scottish this is a tournament that is very close to my heart and it used to be played very close to where I live, at Loch Lomond. The Open Championship is traditionally played on links golf courses and Loch Lomond is very much a parkland course. The result of this was that many of golf’s greatest stars would miss this tournament to prepare on a course more suited to the turf of The Open.
Whilst The Scottish Open brings in some of the most skilled golfers of all, there is one player that has always been a huge absence, Tiger Woods. Golf’s biggest star last played The Scottish in 1996 at Carnoustie as an amateur, the year before he turned pro. After that the tournament moved to the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, Tiger was never to be seen again at this great event.
Tiger traditionally heads to Ireland for a week with long-term friend Mark O’ Meara to work on links golf. To anyone who has never had the pleasure of playing a true links course it takes a different style of golf altogether. On plush perfectly watered courses in the US you can flight high balls into greens right at flags and they’ll hit the greens like darts and stop dead. Try that on a seaside course and you’ll look stupid. Links turf is defined as the land between the sea and arable farming land. This land is very hard and the wind is constantly blowing. Hit the ball high if you’re playing into some of these winds and it’ll come back to you. In the UK we don’t stop play for 15mph winds like they do in the US, we’re tough golfers here 40-50mph and we’re still out there! Fire an approach shot right at a pin and your going to end up about twenty yards through the green! The balls bounces and rolls so you need to land short and let it run up to the flag. Forget flop-shots, you’ll be putting from 30 yards off of the green.
So, to get to my point finally. The Scottish Open has been played at Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness for the last three years and was won by Phil Mickelson who went on to win The Open Championship the following week. This year the tournament moves to Royal Aberdeen. This is another fine traditional Scottish links and has hosted the Walker Cup and The Senior Open Championship. It’s been well documented that Tiger has been injured and is trying to play his way back into the season. He now has the chance to play in another tournament before The Open and, more than that, get some links golf under his belt too. His last Open Championship title came at Royal Liverpool. It’s time he came out and played in the Scottish Open again, come on Tiger you know it’s the right thing to do.
Photo credit: cbc.ca