Scottish Open preview: Rory McIlroy returns after US Open blow

Sportem
Sportem
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The Scottish Open tees off a fortnight of golfing nirvana. North Berwick on Scotland’s east coast and Royal Troon, roughly 100 miles away on the west, will be the centre of the universe over the next two weeks.

Six of the world’s top 10 – new US PGA champion Xander Schauffele among them – are in a stellar cast list at The Renaissance Club.

In a canny move by organisers, McIlroy is joined by MacIntyre and another Ryder Cup star, Viktor Hovland, in a European super grouping for Thursday and Friday.

And how about Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg, former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, and former Open champion Collin Morikawa for another trio worth following?

Boasting a $9m (£7m) prize fund, the Scottish Open also provides an ideal opportunity to acclimatise to the intricacies and undulations of links golf before The Open.

And then there’s the weather. American visitors may well learn a new word in the next few days – ‘drookit’. Rain – lots of it – is forecast. Mercifully for the players, winds are expected to be relatively tame, at about the 10mph mark.

Whatever the elements, an appreciative crowd awaits, as acknowledged by 2022 Scottish Open winner Schauffele.

“Not that all fans don’t appreciate golf, but there’s a deeper appreciation here. They know what a good shot looks like,” said the American.

“It feels like in the US, a few times we get a lot of rain and wind, the course is pretty empty.

“It could be blowing 25mph and raining here and people will be right by your side in shorts and T-shirt and loving every second of it. That’s the appreciation they have for golf and it’s awesome to have fans ‘wear’ the weather with you.”

Fellow American Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open champion, is even giving a senior major – the Kaulig Companies Championship – a miss this week to instead tee it up at Renaissance.

“I just love coming to Scotland and part of me thinks I should have been born here,” Cink, 51, told BBC Scotland.

“It’s very important to come and play [before The Open]. Conditions are different, the air treats the ball differently, everything is just a little different. You have to get your body acclimated and it’s good to get used to the turf and the strike and the distance control.”

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