Castle Stuart provides valuable links warm-up for world's best at Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open

By Kiel ChristiansonJuly 15, 2012, 8:25 pm

Last year's highly anticipated debut of critically acclaimed Castle Stuart Golf Links, in its first year of hosting the Scottish Open, was rudely truncated by rain of biblical proportions.

This year, despite an unseasonably cold and rainy summer even for Scotland, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open has been graced with relatively benign weather and player-friendly conditions – the sort of conditions, in fact, that await next week at The Open Championship at the equally green and soft Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Scores were low here, but players are raving about the links tune-up they're experiencing at Castle Stuart.

In a pre-tournament interview, Padraig Harrington stressed the importance of warming up the week before The Open on a links.

'I was a big advocate when The Scottish Open was at Loch Lomond,' explained Harrington. 'I said, look, I want to play links golf that week. If you move it to a links golf course, I'll be there. They have done that, and I couldn't see myself not playing in The [Aberdeen Asset Management] Scottish Open now because it's on a links. It's ideal. Having it on a links golf course gives you ideal practice.'

Clearly, Harrington's view is shared by many, but there are exceptions. In fact, the highest-ranked U.S. player in the field, Phil Mickelson, is ranked currently #16, meaning that the eight higher-ranked U.S. players decided they could do without a linksland work-out (as did a few Euro players, including world #2, Rory McIlroy).

Phil's spot in the field was not assured, however. Earlier this week, I was chatting with a member of the tournament invitation committee over haggis and $2200 a-bottle single malt Glenglassaugh whisky (I kid you not) at the posh, centuries-old Culloden House. He told me that the committee was holding one invitation in their back pockets in case they got a last-minute call from a big name.

'We thought we'd probably hear from Lee [Westwood],' he confided. But When Phil missed the cut at The Greenbrier, we got a call from him the next day [while Westwood made the cut in France]. I'm not sure what we would have done if they'd both called.'

So you think Phil is just over here for a pre-Open family trip? Think again. The day I arrived — the second day of the tournament — I was hosted by Aberdeen Asset Management for a round at former Walker Cup host Nairn Golf Club. As we were leaving the car park, guess who pulled in for a late evening round? Mickelson.

Phil had shot a 73 on the opening day, and a 64 on the second day, and he wanted to get in some more linksland work. The rumpled fairways of Nairn, about twenty minutes from Inverness, provided just the ticket, while the fairways are narrower and the greens smaller at Nairn as well. Phil did take a buggy out for his Nairn round, though, to 'conserve energy.'

Did the extra links work help? On Saturday Phil followed his 64 with a round of 65 and to crawl within three strokes behind Molinari (he would finish with a 74 on Sunday to finish T-16), who would eventually lose in a playoff to Jeev Milkha-Singh.

Just as important, he's having a great warm-up for next week's Open Championship.

Click here to view tee times in the Scottish Highlands on

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.