Scottish Open organisers have told bunkered.co.uk they remain hopeful that this year’s rescheduled event can still attract a strong field, despite the obvious problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, today would have seen the final round of the 2020 tournament taking place at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, with the Open Championship to follow at Royal St George’s next week.
The coronavirus outbreak, of course, put paid to those best laid plans.
On April 6, the R&A announced the cancellation of this year’s Open. Eleven days later, the European Tour confirmed the postponement the Scottish Open, which it later revealed would be played from October 8-11 either side of the Alfred Dunhill Links and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
With no Open to prepare for the following week and uncertainty over what restrictions might be in place come October, there is a softly-spoken expectation that the rescheduled Scottish Open might not attract the same calibre of field as has become customary over the last ten to 15 years.
However, Paul Bush, the Director of Events at VisitScotland, is more optimistic, albeit cautiously so.
“While we are all disappointed not to be enjoying the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club as scheduled this weekend, it is heartening we have a new target date in October to work to,” Bush told bunkered.co.uk.
“As one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events, the Aberdeen Scottish Open has long been one of the most popular stops on schedule.
"Our partners at the European Tour are working hard to ensure they can deliver an event befitting of its status within guidelines and safety protocols and one which provides confidence to players, Government and other stakeholders alike.
“Scottish golf fans will be excited at the prospect of the return of men’s professional golf to Scotland but ultimately medical advice and guidance will dictate whether spectators are able to attend. For those who will be watching around the world and enjoying the stunning pictures of East Lothian’s coastline, it will serve as inspiration for them to visit once again when the time is right.”
Last year’s tournament welcomed two of the then top-10 players on the OWGR – world No.3 Rory McIlroy and No.7 Justin Thomas – and 16 of the world’s top-50. No fewer than ten of the 156 players in the field were American, continuing the strong ‘Stars and Stripes’ representation the tournament has become accustomed to.
Much of that can be attributed to the opportunity the Scottish Open provides for players to hone their links skills ahead of the Open – an enticement that is gone this year.
That, perhaps, is where the Renaissance Club’s founder, Jerry Sarvadi, might be able to assist.
Last year, the billionaire American chartered a jet to fly in some of his more high-profile PGA Tour-based compatriots. Without knowing for certain their thoughts, one can reasonably assume organisers will hope he can demonstrate his powers of persuasion again this year.
Perhaps Sarvadi and Johann Rupert, the founder and long-standing benefactor of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, could even work together to encourage the game’s top names to commit to two weeks in Scotland at the start of October. Throw in the carrot of Wentworth the week after suddenly that carrot is bigger, more lucrative and fertilsed with the promise of lots of world ranking points.
With the tournaments also scheduled to be played opposite the opening events of the new PGA Tour season - events that are typically ignored by the very top players in the game – it standards to reason that a transatlantic trip may carry some appeal for one or two of the high-rolling denizens of the PGA Tour.
That, though, is contingent upon COVID and the extent to which the world has returned to normal by October.
In related matters, the 2020 Scottish Open also marks the final year of the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ deal to sponsor the tournament. However, bunkered.co.uk understands all parties are keen to extend that arrangement beyond this year and that discussions to this effect have been extremely positive so far.