Scottish Open doesn't deserve backdrop of LIV Golf disruption, says Stephen Gallacher
It was blowing a hoolie on the range at The Renaissance Club on the first official practice day for the $8 million Genesis Scottish Open, which starts at the East Lothian venue on Thursday.
“This is the strongest the wind is going to be during the week,” reported Stephen Gallacher at the end of a session with his coach, Alan McCloskey, as the oldest member of Scotland’s current crop of DP World Tour players prepared for a 24th appearance in his home Open.
According to Gallacher, talk blowing in the air around him as the countdown started in earnest for an exciting new chapter for the event, which is being co-sanctioned between the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour for the first time, had been about one thing.
As was the case at Mount Juliet for last week’s Horizon Irish Open, players still loyal to the DP World Tour are adamant that LIV Golf defectors like Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter should not be allowed to have their cake and eat it.
Speaking as a threat of the rebels seeking a court injunction to allow them to play this week hung heavily, Gallacher talked openly about the thorny issue and, like a number of others over the past week or so, including PGA champion Justin Thomas, the DP World Tour tournament committee member didn’t hold back.
“A lot of guys have left and taken the money and I have no gripes with that at all,” said the 47-year-old, a four-time tour winner who has clocked up more than 600 appearances on the circuit.
“Just don’t try and come back and double dip into our biggest events. Just accept what you are doing, play for whatever you want in your team event, but just don’t come back and try to interfere and disrupt these tournaments which have been going around for ages and are brilliant events. Come back, play The Open and thanks very much.”
DP World Tour bosses imposed both the Genesis Scottish Open ban and £100,000 fines on members who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club last month without receiving an official release.
That led 16 LIV Golf players to send an open letter to Keith Pelley, the DP World Tour chief executive, last week requesting the punishment to be lifted but, with that falling on deaf ears, a court case could now be looming before the action gets underway on Scotland’s Golf Coast.
“Looking as a neutral, you can understand why LIV are going to do it because it is a joint PGA Tour/DP World Tour, so two fingers could be put up to both of us,” added Gallacher, who played in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles alongside Westwood, Garcia and Poulter, as well as other LIV Golf players Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell. “I don’t think the Scottish Open deserves this backdrop.
“I thought Padraig Harrington quoted it perfectly. You’ve made your bed and you lie in it. You make the decision for whatever reason you want to make it, then just stay over there and don’t bother coming back.
“We had a big players meeting the other night. Keith Pelley laid out the plans and it was pretty unanimous that everyone in our Tour was behind it.
“Justin Thomas came out the other day and said, if they are trying to sue the Tour, they are basically try to sue me, sue Tiger, sue Rory. Everyone else out here.
“That’s been an acceptance from us guys that those guys are all away. We are quite happy if they want to stay over there and we are happy to do our own thing and try to grow and build and keep our two Tours flourishing and go from strength to strength. I’m obviously on the tournament committee and we are trying to safeguard our tour as well as we can.
“It’s been around since John Jacobs started it. You’ve got all these tournaments and the heritage. We are trying to keep that for the newer crop.”
Fourteen of the world’s top-15 players, including all four reigning major champions in Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Fitzpatrick, are in East Lothian this week.
In addition to a chance of winning the event’s 40th edition, three spots are up for grabs in next week’s 150th Open at St Andrews, with Gallacher among the players hoping to be lucky in the Last Chance Saloon for that milestone occasion.
“This is the best field the Scottish Open has ever had,” said the West Lothian man. “This is basically a PGA Tour event. If you finish first or second, you might even have a chance to get your card in America. It’s a chance for someone that wasn’t there a couple of years back.
“There are also Open chances and that’s outrageous. The 150th at St Andrews. It’s the hottest ticket in gold this year by miles. It’s the reason why Tiger Woods is missing tournaments in America. So he’s fit and ready for it at his favourite course.”
The Renaissance Club is staging the event for the fourth year running. “It’s brilliant,” said Gallacher of the venue, where, with the aforementioned Harrington involved in a consultancy role, more improvements and changes have been implemented since Australian Si Woo Kim’s play-off victory 12 months ago.
“I’m a member at the club and I play it a lot. I love the Scottish Open, the family is down staying in Gullane and it’ll be special. I’ll do my practice gearing up to do as well as I can to have a chance to down the stretch on a Sunday.”