Scottish Open 2022: New elevated status brings stars flocking

Min Woo Lee defends his Scottish Open title in the tournament's strongest-ever field this week
Min Woo Lee defends his Scottish Open title in the tournament's strongest-ever field this week

All four current major champions. Fourteen of the world's top 15 players. A slot on the PGA Tour schedule. The perfect preamble to the 150th Open.

This week's Scottish Open isn't just more prestigious than ever - it is "the greatest tournament this tour has seen", according to European golf supremo Keith Pelley.

The stars will descend on the Renaissance Club in North Berwick for the $8m event and there's a helping of controversy too, with some notable names conspicuous by their absence as elite golf's power struggle rumbles on.

Here's why the Scottish Open is the only show in town...

Major champions head elite field

The tournament occupies a key slot in the calendar, immediately before The Open. However, that status has gone stratospheric as the Scottish Open is now the first co-sanctioned event between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour).

It's such a hot ticket that even some of the banned European 'rebels' such Ian Poulter have brought - and succeeded in - legal action to tee it up in East Lothian.

In case you've somehow missed all the commotion, the likes of Poulter, and fellow Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were banned from the Scottish Open as punishment for competing in June's Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf event.

Similarly, former major champions Brooks Koepka, Bryson Dechambeau, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson miss out after being served PGA Tour suspensions.

The controversy can't take the shine off a glittering line-up of superstars. When Pelley referred to the Scottish Open as a "heat moment", he wasn't referring to the weather, rather the "strongest regular Tour event in our entire history". Fifty years since the Tour launched, it's quite the accolade.

England's new superstar Matt Fitzpatrick, fresh from his US Open triumph, joins Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler - the world number one - and Justin Thomas. It's a historic quartet as, for the first time in the Tour's history, all four current major champions play the same event.

Fitzpatrick has been a Scottish Open ever-present since turning professional and was runner-up last year, losing out along with Thomas Detry in a play-off as Min Woo Lee took the title.

There are debuts for Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland this week, with the likes of Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay also among the heavyweight talents on show.

It leaves Rory McIlroy as the only player in the world's top 15 not taking part.

A perfect warm-up

It's often trotted out that the Scottish Open provides the ideal links preparation for the following week's major. If you're dubious of the authenticity of such claims, Morikawa will put you right.

The American reckons his stunning debut Open triumph at Royal St George's in Kent last year wouldn't have been possible were it not for his crash course in links golf at the Renaissance Club the previous week, where he finished tied 71st.

"I owe a lot to that tournament for getting me ready and actually making me realise that I needed to change some irons," the 25-year-old told BBC Sport.

"Those two weeks last year my game was in some of the best shape I could have had. Then at the Scottish I started hitting irons shots, nine irons to 45 feet, missing greens and it was just frustrating.

"I wanted to blame it on my clubs and rarely that's the case, but I really did and stuck with it, I made some changes at Royal St George's on the Monday and ended up winning."

Home hopefuls & Open lure

For all the glitz of the world's best converging on North Berwick, a downside of the tournament's elevated status for home fans is a reduction in the Scottish talent on show.

Seven Scots - around half the number of recent years - will feature, with Robert MacIntyre - the country's highest-ranked player at 100 - joined by Stephen Gallacher, David Law, Ewen Ferguson, Richie Ramsay, Grant Forrest and America-based Russell Knox.

MacIntyre, it's fair to say, would relish a victory on home soil. "For me, it's the fifth major," he said. "With the standard of the field and everything that comes with it, winning the Scottish Open would mean absolutely everything."

Speaking of majors, MacIntyre, Law and Paul Lawrie are currently the only Scots in the field for The Open next week, which just happens to be the 150th staging of golf's oldest and grandest competition. If that wasn't special enough, it's taking place at the home of golf further up the east coast.

So for the likes of Gallacher, the Scottish Open is a final shot at squeezing into the field for the looming humdinger at St Andrews.

"I've got a chance if I finish in the top 10. There are three spots available for The Open," 47-year-old Gallacher said.

"The 150th Open at St Andrews is probably the hottest ticket in golf. I know how special it is to tee off on that first tee in an Open, so I can't stress how much I'll be trying my hardest to get into that."

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