Graeme McDowell will aim to become the first player to successfully defend the Scottish Open title this morning when he begins his first round with Argentina's Angel Cabrera, the US Masters champion, and Ross Fisher of England. A year ago McDowell became only the second Irishman to win the event when he posted a 13-under par 271 winning total over four days to emulate the achievement of his compatriot, David Feherty, in 1986.
History suggests it would be difficult repeating such moments this week, but McDowell is in a positive mood. "I'm not going to get sucked into the whole 'well, I won last year and surely I should come and birdie the first five holes this year'," said McDowell. "I'm dealing with the extra exposure, but I know I've got to back out and win it again this week." Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy, the Dubai Desert Classic winner, are out together in the morning with the European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Nick Dougherty forming another alluring group in the afternoon.
The South African Els feels the Scottish Open is good preparation for the British Open at Turnberry next week, despite the differing natures of the courses. Loch Lomond is more an inland target-style circuit, compared to the coastal links of Turnberry, where the elements tend to dominate. Els had to battle with the wind and rain in winning the Open at Muirfield in 2002. "It's not the most perfect preparation. The strike of the turf is so different, but we've known that for 13 or 14 years since we've been playing here. It is such a great tournament in itself that you don't want to miss this tournament," said Els. "I think competitive golf is good preparation for major golf."
In other afternoon groups, Geoff Ogilvy, Oliver Wilson and Refief Goosen play together, while Sir Nick Faldo will accompany Thongchai Jaidee and Louis Oosthuizen.