1. The prospect of a home winner
It’s coming home, you say? This Sunday? Scottish fans are hoping for that, too, funnily enough. Only they’re mostly crossing their fingers for a fellow countryman winning the Scottish Open at Gullane and, in so doing, ending almost 20 years of hurt.
Colin Montgomerie’s win in the 1999 Standard Life Loch Lomond event (which subsequently became incorporated into Scottish Open history) remains the last time a Scot won their national open.
Russell Knox will be fancied to make a good run at the title this year, having won the Irish Open in such thrilling fashion last week. The Florida-based Scot will be joined in the field by 12 of his fellow countrymen. Can one of them step up and get the job done?
2. The ‘brown’ course
How best to describe the weather in Scotland over the past few months? One word: scorchio.
Since the start of May, the country has been gently baking in hot and dry conditions, which, as well as being generally fantastic, has dried out the country’s golf courses.
Gullane is no different in that respect. It has taken on a largely ‘yellow/brown’ hue, which means players will be hitting off firm and largely bare lies as opposed to the springy lush turf they are more accustomed to on tour. The greens have been watered and so are plenty receptive, which, combined with the absolute absence of wind, could yield some pretty low scores… but only if the players can adapt to the uncommon conditions.
Course management and a smidge of creativity will be key. As an example, I watched Edoardo Molinari, Dylan Frittelli and Adrian Otageui tee off from the first around 7.30am this morning. One went with an iron; one with a fairway wood; and another with a driver. Point being? This isn’t your average, one-dimensional test. You have to think, rather than bludgeon, your way around it. The player who can do that best will likely be the winner come Sunday.
3. The strength of the field
Okay, so the eleventh hour withdrawals of Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood and Beef are a bit of a blow… but still, the field assembled here at Gullane this week is legitimately exceptional. Sixteen of the world’s top 50 players are teeing it up, including world No.3 Justin Rose and No.7 Rickie Fowler. There are also 11 major winners and three former world No.1s. Good enough? More than.
4. What will Phil do next?
It’s been a, how can we put this, ‘interesting’ year for Phil Mickelson.
From his widely condemned putting shenanigans at the US Open (and his uncharacteristically awful management of the ensuing fall-out), to those shirts, to initially mistaking his WGC-Mexico Championship playing partner Shubhankar Sharma for an autograph hunter, to appearing to get favourable treatment from a rules official at the same event (which he won), to that weird rules incident at The Greenbrier last weekend… the list goes on and on.
Bottom line? Phil needs to start making headlines again for the right reasons – and where better than the Scottish Open, an event he won in 2013. Mickelson is one of the most entertaining players in the game, as well as one of the most unpredictable. You just never know what he’s going to do next.
Even at 48, he remains one of the game’s biggest draws.
5. Last chance saloon for The Open
There are three places in the field for next week’s Open Championship at stake for the top three not-already-exempt players come Sunday night.
Amongst the big names playing for a place at Carnoustie are Graeme McDowell, Thomas Bjorn, Martin Laird, Stephen Gallacher, Eddie Pepperell and Jamie Donaldson.
Yeah, there’s plenty to play for.