You have to admire how the European Tour responded to the problems of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.
When CEO Keith Pelley announced they had little choice but to call a halt to tournaments in the spring of this year, shortly before lockdown was imposed, it brought the Tour to a standstill at what is one of its busiest times of the season.
Four months of professional golf were ripped from the schedule and when tournaments resumed in early July – some four weeks after the PGA Tour had re-started – the re-arranged calendar was a mere shadow of the one which had originally been in place.
But thanks to the hard work of Pelley and his team, at their offices in Surrey, at least there were titles and trophies to be chased after, even though the prize money on offer was substantially less than normal.
After two co-sanctioned events in Austria, and the six-week UK Swing, the Tour enjoyed three weeks on the Iberian Peninsula, before returning to play tournaments in Ireland, Scotland and England.
Modest prize fund
The last two of these were prestigious Rolex Series events, and this week the players are back on Scotland’s east coast to contest yet another swiftly arranged new tournament.
The Scottish Championship in Fife offers a more modest prize fund than Wentworth, but it does provide European Tour members with another chance to tee-up.
With a total purse of one million Euros, the Scottish Championship is being played at Fairmont’s Torrance course which is making its debut at this level.
Located around three miles east of the town of St Andrews, Fairmont has been a frequent stop for the European Senior Tour (Legends Tour), hosting the Scottish Senior Open six times between 2009 and 2014. It has also staged pre-qualifying events for The Open Championship.
The course is laid out on cliffs overlooking St Andrews Bay, and was named after Sam Torrance who was one of its co-designers.
Although built on agricultural land, there is definitely a links feel to it with a handful of subtle undulations on what is generally a flat layout.
The rough is usually thick, and there are streams running across the course protecting a number of greens.
This week’s event also marks the 10th and final time this year that the European Tour will have visited a UK venue.
Back in business
Among those teeing-up is England’s Eddie Pepperell who usually looks at home by the coast.
The former world No 32 is starting to move in the right direction again, after a few months completely off the boil.
Check out the latest betting ahead of this week’s Scottish Championship
In strong Rolex Series fields, the 29-year-old recently enjoyed back-to-back top-10s, the first of these at September’s Scottish Open.
And Sunday’s tie-for-sixth in the PGA Championship, earned him his largest collection of World Ranking points for more than 18 months. It was a result which returned him to the world’s top 100.
This week’s field is considerably weaker than the ones which teed-up at The Renaissance Club and Wentworth, and if the breeze picks up Pepperell must stand a good chance of winning the tournament.
The same goes for Lee Westwood whose last five starts have all yielded top-20 finishes.
Even in a golfing season completely decimated by the pandemic, Westwood will still be keeping one eye on his chances of ending the year as the Race to Dubai champion. He currently stands fourth in the table.
As for other players who are likely to relish tough coastal conditions this week, read the names Robert MacIntyre and Padraig Harrington.
Check out the latest betting ahead of next month’s US Masters
The 24-year-old MacIntyre is not playing as well as he was this time last year but will still relish his chances this week.
He tied-second at Hillside last year and played well in the Scottish Open two weeks ago, finishing one stroke behind Harrington who was ninth.
World No 204 Matthew Southgate may also be worth a punt over these coming few days.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
MC* – Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
Key To GB&I Coastal Form Guide:
1/4:The Renaissance Club; 2/7:St Andrews (Dunhill Links); 3: Royal Portrush; 5: Lahinch; 6: Hillside; 8: Carnoustie; 9: Gullane; 10: Ballyliffen