It boldly claimed the title of Scotland’s Golf Coast and, according to former Ryder Cup player and local resident Andrew Coltart, East Lothian is now backing that up with big events.
This week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play at Archerfield Links is the third top tournament to be held in the area in the space of three years after the 2013 Open at Muirfield and last summer’s Scottish Open at Gullane.
Phil Mickelson claimed the Claret Jug on the East Lothian coast, while another leading American, Rickie Fowler, came out on top in the first Scottish Open to be held in one of the hotbeds of golf.
Now, two Ryder Cup contenders – English duo Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood – are spearheading a 64-man field bidding to land the title won by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat in last year’s inaugural Paul Lawrie Match Play at Murcar Links.
“East Lothian, of course, has branded itself as Scotland’s Golf Coast and is now proving itself as that by standing up and wanting to hold events of this stature,” said Coltart, who lives in Aberlady and is also an Archerfield Links member.
“In the space of three years, we’ll have had The Open, the Scottish Open and now the Paul Lawrie Match Play all held on a stretch of land that can’t be any more than four miles in a tiny little part of Scotland.”
The Paul Lawrie Match Play had originally been scheduled to return for a second year at Murcar Links before Archerfield Links, with the backing of East Lothian Council, stepped in when the tournament promoters needed a new venue.
Aberdeen Asset Management recently came on board as the title sponsor and, with a stronger field than last year, a fascinating four days of golf lie ahead, starting tomorrow with 32 first-round ties.
“The whole set up at Archerfield – the two golf courses, the clubhouse, the spa, the Nike Performance Centre etc – is fantastic and it’s a great place to be a member,” added Coltart, who will be part of the Sky Sports commentary team this week.
“What has been achieved here is testament to how DJ Russell designed the courses, testament to how Tom Younger makes the whole place tick and also testament to Kevin Doyle for having the vision to create the place in area that is already awash with wonderful golf courses and make it work.
“It’s great that it is now hosting its first European Tour event, having already hosted the Ladies Scottish Open and the Scottish Seniors Open in recent years. It is creating a great buzz for Archerfield and a great buzz for East Lothian. Hopefully it will attract good crowds and hopefully the weather will be okay.”
Both BMW PGA champion Wood and Fitzpatrick, winner of the British Masters and Nordea Masters during the qualifying campaign, head into the event occupying automatic spots in Darren Clarke’s side for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in September.
Sitting in the last of those berths after going off the boil a bit lately, Fitzpatrick in particular could do with a good week in an event that also involves two of Clarke’s vice captains for the match in Minnesota – tournament host Lawrie and Dane Thomas Bjorn.
“It is a challenging time in the schedule to get a good line up, especially with the Olympics in there this year, but I think it is a good field this week,” said Coltart. “Paul has put a put a lot of work in and I think the respect he has out there on Tour is shown by the quality of some of the individuals who’ve pitched up
“They include Chris and Matt. Both are well versed in match play and both want to win this event, there’s no doubt about that. But a lot will depend on the draw. Because it’s match play, they could go out in the first round and from their point of view that would obviously represent a disappointing week.”
With a third player from within the world’s top 50 – Swede Alex Noren, who won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart – in the field, it’s definitely stronger than 12 months ago when former Open champion John Daly was one of the star attractions only to lose in the first round.
Coltart reckons it is difficult to pick out a winner in a match-play event, but is looking forward to seeing if Marc Warren can improve on reaching the semi-final last year and also how Stephen Gallacher fares on his return from a two-month injury lay-off due to a hand problem that has forced him to find a new swing.
“It will be interesting to see how Stevie comes back,” said the two-time European Tour winner. “It’s been well documented that he’s had to change his swing due to injury and I wish him all the best as that is going to be tough.
“When you’ve swung the golf club a certain way for as long as he has, it is always going to be difficult to change, but I hope he comes out and has a good week.
“Form goes out of the window in match-play. This event is a great opportunity for guys who’ve not had the best of seasons. They can go out there and take a few scalps.”
An adult day ticket costs just £15 and that also secures free admission to the Scottish Seniors Open at Archerfield Links on August 19-21. Kids under-18 get in free and parking is also free.
8.00am Haydn Porteous v John Parry
8.10am Sebastien Gros v David Horsey
8.20am James Morrison v Alvaro Quiros
8.30am Tommy Fleetwood v Graeme Storm
8.40am Pablo Larrazabal v Simon Khan
8.50am Peter Uihlein v Oliver Fisher
9.00am Johan Carlsson v Morten Orum Madsen
9.10am Robert Rock v Gary Stal
9.25am Jorge Campillo v Marc Warren
9.35am Magnus Carlsson v Chase Koepka
9.45am Matthew Southgate Kristoffer Broberg
9.55am David Drysdale v Michael Hoey
10.05am Richie Ramsay v David Howell
10.15am Gregory Havret v Roope Kakko
10.25am Benjamin Hebert v Chris Paisley
10.35am David Lipsky v Prom Meesawat
12.30pm Lee Slattery v Richard Green
12.40pm Lucas Bjerregaard v Paul Lawrie
12.50pm Calum Shinkiwn v Eduardo De La Riva
1.00pm Alejandro Canizares v Mike Lorenzo Vera
1.10pm Mikko Ilonen v Jin Jeong
1.20pm Maximilian Keiffer v Edoardo Molinari
1.30pm Nacho Elvira v Oliver Wilson
1.40pm Raphael Jacquelin v Craig Lee
1.55pm Richard Bland v Joakim Lagergren
2.05pm Robert Dinwiddie v Anthony Wall
2.15pm Matthew Fitzpatrick v Thomas Bjorn
2.25pm Pelle Edberg v Matt Ford
2.35pm Chris Wood v Brett Rumford
2.45pm Daniel Brooks v Gareth Wright
2.55pm Alex Noren v Scott Jamieson
3.05pm Renato Paratore v Stephen Gallacher