Raymond Russell has not been surprised to see Brooks Koepka go from strength to strength since winning last year’s Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore.
He played with the American ace in the opening two rounds at Macdonald Spey Valley 12 months ago and knew he was watching a star in the making.
Koepka’s victory in the Highlands secured automatic promotion to the European Tour as it was his third win of the season. He recently finished fourth in the US Open at Pinehurst and Lothians star Russell reckons an exciting future lies ahead for the man who has blazed a trail for Americans on this side of the Atlantic along with Peter Uihlein.
“As well as the opening two rounds in Aviemore last year, I’d played with Brooks about half a dozen times before and I personally think he’s got the whole package,” said Russell.
“Along with Thorbjorn Olesen, he’s probably the best I’ve seen on the Challenge Tour since I’ve been back playing on it over the last four years.
“He had a great finish at Pinehurst a couple of weeks ago to cement his place on the PGA Tour. The only thing I’m surprised about is that he’s not won yet at that higher level but once he does I think we’ll see him doing so quite regularly.”
Russell is back in the Highlands this week hoping the £200,000 event can ignite his season, having made just one cut in six starts on the Challenge Tour.
“My game has been very poor and I’m in the process of trying to find something that will allow me to play a bit better,” said the 39-year-old from Prestonpans who now lives in North London. “It’s normally one thing but this time it’s a bit of everything, really. I’ll keep chipping away to try and sharpen my whole game up.
“I should get to play in every event from here on so there’s still a bit of time to get things going and this week is a good one to be playing well as it’s a big event. You really want to be kicking on from now on. “If I didn’t think I was still capable of winning, it would be time for to be doing something else as playing on the Challenge Tour is way too expensive and involves spending too much time away from your family.
“We all go through periods of peaks and troughs and it’s about battling away and trying to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Also in the field at Aviemore are two of the Saltman brothers – Lloyd and Zack – as well as Braid Hills-attached Paul McKechnie.