Scottish Open Confirmed at Castle Stuart

After much consideration, the European Tour announced today that the Barclays Scottish Open will relocate from Loch Lomond Golf Club to Castle Stuart Golf Links near Inverness.  It is believed that the tournament will remain in the Highlands for 3 years and I’m sure the locals will welcome this news with open arms.  Loch Lomond has hosted the event for the last 15 years and every year was a resounding success with large crowds ever present.  I’m certain this tradition will remain now that Castle Stuart is taking over.

After its official opening in 2009, Castle Stuart has been on the receiving end of very high praise – and for what it’s worth, I was one of those who praised it.  Being awarded with the Scottish Open is acclaim of the highest order.  This is one of the European Tour’s biggest events and it attracts a top quality field on a yearly basis.  I’d like to think that it’ll attract an even higher class field now that it will be played on a links course.  This was always a major consideration for some players as the Scottish Open is played the week before The Open Championship.  Loch Lomond is an outstanding course, but the parkland layout and soft fairways haven’t suited some players’ practice regimes the week before The Open. 

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By Gary Sheppard.  Gary has been with PerryGolf for over 4 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.

Rory McIlroy quits the PGA Tour to return to the European Tour

World number 9, Rory McIlroy, has decided after just one year on the US Tour to return to Europe stating “If you’re not playing well in the United States then it can be lonely, but over here you have your mates.”

It’s a massive coup for the European Tour to have arguably the hottest young prospect in world golf back playing in his home continent; it will provide yet another huge boost for a tour which has had huge success this season with the Ryder Cup victory, Graeme MacDowell and Martin Kaymer both winning their first Majors, and Lee Westwood finally making it to world number one.

Despite this, Rory says he will still play 11 or 12 tournaments on the PGA Tour so fans in the US will no doubt still be able to see him towards the top of more than a few leader boards.

By Keith Baird.  Keith has been with PerryGolf for over 10 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.

Race to Dubai

While Dubai made headlines last week over its rescheduling of massive debt, from a golf travel perspective it remains an exciting and vibrant city to visit with outstanding hotels and golf courses, plus of course beaches, bars and restaurants. Their state airline, Emirates, covers the globe and offers direct service from a huge number of the world’s principal cities. The weekend before last I made a trip there for the 2009 Dubai World Championship, the final event of the European Tour’s inaugural “Race to Dubai”. We stayed in the Westin Hotel on the beach. It was excellent and I can recommend it highly.

The Race to Dubai is effectively a ramped up version of the European Tour Order of Merit, taking some inspiration from the PGA Tour Fedex Cup, and which brings the leading sixty players together for a season ending event in Dubai with large bonus money at stake.

There was concern expressed in advance in some quarters over the Dubai World Championship due to the level of economic crisis affecting Dubai even before the recent announcement. It did ultimately turn out to be a significant success for the European Tour, although it may have been a little fraught in the lead up in that much of the infrastructure, roadways included, were constructed only shortly before the Tour rolled into town. The tournament itself was splendidly staged with spectators extremely well catered for, the media centre unusually enjoying a grandstand view over the 18th green, and fabulous hospitality also available (I was fortunate to have been a guest of the European Tour for hospitality on the Saturday-:). TV cameras beamed pictures around the world of an exciting contest staged on a beautifully presented golf course, and gave little sight of the massive number of newly built, or half built homes which lay empty and unsold nearby and along the edges of a number of the holes. Vast swathes of empty desert for the remainder of the planned golf courses (Wind, Fire, and Water being the three courses planned to join the current Earth Course) and accompanying hotel and home developments, were also conveniently out of view.

My personal interest in attending the event was in watching a few of the players who have played under my captaincy of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team over the past 4 years. Of the 58 players in the final starting lineup, four had played or been involved in the squads (Chris Wood, Danny Willett, Ross McGowan and most notably Rory McIlroy) proving that the highest performing amateurs can very quickly go on to compete at the higher levels of pro golf).

Going in to the Dubai World Championship there were four possible Race to Dubai winners in Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher. Leading the race was 20 year old Rory McIlroy seeking to become the youngest winner of the European Order of Merit (now the Race to Dubai) since Seve Ballesteros way back in 1976 won it as a 19 year old. Quickly it became a two horse race between McIlroy and Westwood. Despite a highly creditable third place finish, McIlroy was overtaken by an extraordinarily on form Lee Westwood who shot a final round 64 to carve out a six shot victory and secure the inaugural win of both the Dubai World Championship and the Race to Dubai, taking his 2009 European Tour earnings to €4,237,000 Also playing outstanding golf in the company of Lee Westwood on the final two days, and quietly finishing in second place for the tournament as well as securing 12th place in the Race to Dubai, was the highly impressive Ross McGowan, whose finish here coupled with his win of the Madrid Masters in September, opens up many new doors for him in the golfing world. As our houseguest in July for the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond I was delighted to be in Dubai to witness his success.

On the final evening we attended a small beach party at the Mina A’Salam Hotel hosted by Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, Managing Director of International Sports Management (ISM) to celebrate Lee Westwood’s win. In as much as ISM managed the first, second and third placed players (Westwood, McGowan, McIlroy) it was certainly a night of celebration!

It was a weary group which then took their places on the following morning’s British Airways flight back to London. A few glasses of champagne were however raised in the toasting of the new champion -:)