It’s a big week on the European Tour, with the first Rolex Series event for almost nine months taking place in Scotland.
The strongest field, since the end of lockdown, will assemble in North Berwick for the lucrative Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, which tees off this Thursday.
With a total prize fund of $7m, the purse will be between six and 10 times greater than for the majority of events staged since the European Tour re-opened for business in early July.
It will also be the largest purse of any tournament so far held on European soil during the current calendar year.
And the good news for golf fans is that the prestigious Scottish Open will be followed by another Rolex Series event next week, when the players head for Surrey and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
As for this week, the tournament is being staged at The Renaissance Club on the East Lothian coast, for a second straight year.
Change of date
The big difference this time is its position within the calendar. Last year it was played in early July, the week before The Open at Royal Portrush.
It was due to occupy the same slot in 2020, but the emergence of Covid-19 meant the entire schedule had to be ripped up and compiled again.
This week’s defending champion, Bernd Wiesberger, made the most of benign conditions to post a winning 72-hole total of 262 (22 under par).
As many as 27 golfers broke 270 in 2019 when it was played in pretty good golfing weather.
Check out the latest betting ahead of this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
However, with its new October date, autumnal conditions might pose a few more problems for the golfers over the coming few days.
The reasonably generous fairways will become a lot tougher to manage if the wind blows hard this weekend, and the heavily contoured greens will almost certainly provide a tricky test.
Rich golfing heritage
The Renaissance Club is laid out close to a number of great Scottish golfing gems, and located approximately 20 miles east of Edinburgh.
Opened in April 2008, the course overlooks the south bank of the Firth of Forth, and is just a handful of miles from iconic links such as Muirfield, Gullane and Archerfield.
It had been hoped that this week’s tournament would allow a limited number of spectators through the gates.
But due to the sudden rise in the number of people contracting Coronavirus, the tournament will have to be staged behind closed doors.
Prior to hosting last year’s Scottish Open, the course had been used for a 36-hole pre-qualifying tournament ahead of the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
In terms of ranking, Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick lead the way and both should be among the favoured runners this week.
Although Fleetwood’s post-lockdown form has been below the level now expected of the world No 17, his performances at UK coastal venues in recent seasons have been solid.
As for Fitzpatrick, his form this summer has been good, highlighted by a trio of top-six finishes in prestigious PGA Tour events.
Defending champ Wiesberger has all the tools to contend once again, while those seeking a longer-priced each-way selection might fancy Paul Waring who has enjoyed some decent results by the coast.
These include a podium finish at St Andrews last October, a tie-for-seventh in the Irish Open at Lahinch in July 2019, plus tied-sixth at Hillside two months earlier.
The South African contingent should pose a threat in tough conditions, with Erik Van Rooyen, George Coetzee and Christiaan Bezuidenhout their leading trio in Scotland.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
MC* – Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves