LOCH LOMOND // There continues to be considerable hurdles to be negotiated before the major moments come under the microscope on the golfing calendar. It is perhaps only of notional value, but there remains an inextricable sporting link between the lofty US courses of Redstone in Texas, TPC Southwind in Tennessee, Ohio's Firestone and the svelte Scottish circuit of Loch Lomond. These are the penultimate tournaments before one of the four majors in the host country is played out. They are hardly lukewarm competitions. Loch Lomond tomorrow welcomes in the first round of the Scottish Open before its elder Scottish relative of Turnberry stages the 138th British Open Championship.
Whether one is reaching for an umbrella, sun cream or a wind cheater, Loch Lomond, a circuit partly designed by Tom Weiskopf, a former Open champion, never fails to shed its beauty. The competitors can hardly cheat a course of over 7,000 yards that lists Tom Lehman, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie among former champions, but as a form guide for the Open, the Scottish Open is about as reliable as predicting the varied bundle of weather that tends to hover over such versatile land.
It may sound thoughtless, but if a player is using history to try to chart a path to the Claret Jug, they may be better leaving the Scottish Open alone. It is always difficult to win successive events, but this is an especially arduous and emotional undertaking. Perhaps there is wisdom in Tiger Woods's traditional preference to practice on such weeks. One remembers Sandy Lyle, who is in the Loch Lomond field, snaring the Greater Greensboro Open and US Masters in 1988, but it is a trick few manage. No player has progressed to lift the Open after succeeding at Loch Lomond. It is in keeping with the theme of the past year in which the Houston Open winner Paul Casey, the St Jude Classic champion Brian Gay and Vijay Singh, holder of the Bridgestone Invitational, won the week before the US Masters, US Open and US PGA, but perhaps peaked a week early. The 2008 Scottish Open champion, Graeme McDowell, almost conceded that the hard nature of such a feat makes it difficult to win the Open.
Angel Cabrera may have other ideas. The US Masters champion and former US Open champion torched this course a year ago in the first and second rounds, moving effortlessly to nine under before a third round six-over 77 smothered his initiative. The magic of Cabrera is in his unpredictability. Sir Nick Faldo and John Daly add a hint of nostalgia to any event, but Ian Poulter, fresh from calling a cameraman an idiot at the French Open, Goosen, Els and Geoff Ogilvy are among a field that contains 22 of the world's top 50 players, ten major winners and a prize fund of £3m (Dh17.8m).
A place at the Open is available to those unqualified, but this is a tournament, ranging from the weather to its winners, that comes with no guarantees. firstname.lastname@example.org