8am Round-up Exclusive: Gullane to stage 2018 Scottish Opens
Gullane is set to stage both the men's and women's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open next year, replicating the ground-breaking double-header being staged at Dundonald Links this summer.
While the European Tour refused to be drawn on the matter, it is understood that an announcement likely to be made today will confirm the exciting prospect for the East Lothian venue as it plays host to top players in the men’s and women’s games in the space of just three weeks.
It will be a second visit to Gullane for the men’s event after American Rickie Fowler, helped by a wonder shot at the 72nd hole, claimed what was a popular victory on a composite course on Scotland’s Golf Coast in 2015.
That tournament attracted a star-studded field, including Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Justin Rose, and it could even be stronger next year now that the Scottish Open is part of the European Tour’s mega-money Rolex Series.
The Ladies Scottish Open has also seen its status elevated on the back of it becoming co-sanctioned with the LPGA, a three-year deal seeing its prize fund tripled from £428,000 to £1.2m - the biggest on the LET outside the majors.
It means the event at Gullane would attract a much stronger field than it did when the tournament was staged, successfully so, for five years at another East Lothian venue, Archerfield Links, before moving to Dundonald Links in Ayrshire in 2015.
Gullane was selected ahead of the nearby Renaissance Club when it staged a European Tour event for the first time two years ago and didn’t disappoint, proving a hit as a new Scottish Open venue with players and spectators alike.
“The event exceeded our expectations,” admitted Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset Management’s chief executive, at the time. “I must admit that I didn’t expect the course to turn out as good as it did. It was in great condition and the composite course was fantastic, I thought. It was great to have an event like this finishing down in the village and we’d certainly come back here.”
In anticipation of that happening, some changes have since been carried out by leading course architects Mackenzie & Ebert, the same company that has transformed the Ailsa Course at Turnberry into a spectacular test of golf and was also used by Royal Portrush to revamp it for the 2019 Open Championship.
Fowler birdied three of the last four holes as he closed with a 68 for a 12-under-par 268 total, winning by a shot from fellow American Kuchar and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin. Marc Warren finished as leading Scot in a tie for fourth, a shot further back.
Only three of the eight Scots to qualify are still standing in the Amateur Championship after English players won five matches between the Auld Enemies at Royal St George’s.
Robert MacIntyre, last year’s beaten finalist, won two ties to reach the last 32 in Kent, where Craig Howie and Ryan Lumsden are also still in the title hunt.
Glencruitten left-hander MacIntyre, who just scraped through the stroke-play qualifying, looks to have the bit between his teeth again now that it’s the cut and thrust of match-play.
The Walker Cup squad member beat China’s Zheng Kai Bai 3&1 in the first round before following that up with a 3&2 afternoon success over Ben Ferguson.
Though Ferguson entered this event under the Australian flag, he played for Scotland in last year’s Boys’ Home Internationals through his parentage.
Peebles player Howie maintained his promising form from the two rounds of stroke-play earlier in the week to beat Slovenia’s Zan Luka Stirn 4&2.
Lumsden, a Royal Wimbledon member, claimed a notable scalp as he recorded a 5&3 win over Irishman Robin Dawson, a contender for the Walker Cup in Los Angeles later in the year after being added to the initial Great Britain & Ireland squad.
Balmore’s Christopher Maclean, who qualified as leading Scot, lost on the last to Tom Sloman in one of those Scotland versus England clashes, with Sandy Scott, Craig Ross and Euan Walker suffering the same fate.
Nairn teenager Scott saw his Walker Cup hopes suffer a blow as he lost 2&1 to Charlie Strickland; fellow GB&I squad player Ross went down on the last to Craig Ross lost by one hole to Daniel O’Loughlin and Walker was beaten 3&2 by Jordan Sundborg.
Earlier in the day, Connor Syme had become the first of the eight Scots to bow out as he went down on the last to yet another Englishman, David Langley.
Rory McIlroy has backed the PGA Tour’s decision to introduce blood testing as part of its anti-doping policy.
The US circuit also announced earlier this week that its list of banned substances will match the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list from next season.
“If we’re not blood testing we’re not doing all we can to make sure that golf is a clean sport, so I obviously welcome the news,” said McIlroy.
“If golf wants to be a sport in the Olympics, it needs to get on board with everything that all the other sports do as well.
“I really don’t think anyone should be fearful as I don’t think that golf has any sort of drug problem at all.
“You have to be so careful about what you take, but that’s part and parcel about being an athlete.”
Gary Orr marked his European Senior Tour debut - and first outing in nearly four years - by breaking par in the first round of the inaugural European Tour Properties Senior Classic at Linna Golf in Finland.
Orr, who turned 50 last month, posted a one-under to sit joint-17th, four shots behind Tim Thelan as the American set the pace after an effort that contained seven birdies.
Orr, a two-time European Tour winner, made his last appearance on the circuit in the 2013 Italian Open.
Downfield’s Graham Bell took route 66 to set the pace in the Scottish Seniors Open Championship at Royal Burgess in Edinburgh.
Englishman Stephen East, having carded a three-under-par 68, held the clubhouse lead until Bell came in with a late eye-catching effort.
Last year’s Scottish Seniors Order of Merit winner, he recovered from being three-over after three by bagging eight birdies in 12 holes.
Two other Scots - Blairgowrie’s Tom McLevy and David Shields from Glenearn - are also in the top 10 after matching 70s.
Englishman Chris Lloyd took up where he left when winning at Montrose Links last week to lead after the opening round in the latest PGA EuroPro Tour event.
The Kendleshire man carded an eight-under-par 65 in the PDC Championship at Studley Woood to lead from four of his compatriots.
Top Scot after a four-under-par 69 is Jonathan Mullaney, who is unattached, with Zack Saltman and Conor O’Neil both on 71.