Scot­tish Open no walk in the park

World-beaters will have to mar­shal re­serves of re­silience as they ne­go­ti­ate the no­to­ri­ous Dun­don­ald Links with its vast range of stum­bling blocks

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­

Five top play­ers will be among a glit­ter­ing ar­ray of stars to show­case their tal­ent at the Scot­tish Open, which tees off at Dun­don­ald Links in Ayr­shire, Scot­land, on Thurs­day. Rory McIl­roy (North Ire­land), Hen­rik Sten­son and Alexan­der Norén (both from Swe­den), Rickie Fowler (US) and Adam Scott (Aus­tralia) are part of the field that are ranked top on the of­fi­cial world golf rank­ings (see graphic). The event, one of the rich­est on the Euro­pean Tour with a prize fund of $7 mil­lion (R94 mil­lion), will not only be the pre­lude to the Bri­tish Open to be con­tested the fol­low­ing week – it will also stretch the com­peti­tors to the limit to see if they are good enough to deal with the tough con­di­tions at Dun­don­ald, which is re­garded as one of the world’s trick­i­est and most un­for­giv­ing courses be­cause of its dif­fi­cult lay­out.

For McIl­roy, who is cur­rently ranked fourth in the world, it will be a mat­ter of get­ting back to win­ning ways fol­low­ing a start to the sea­son that has been ham­pered by a rib in­jury.

His last vic­tory was the Tour Cham­pi­onship on the PGA Tour in Septem­ber. Since then, he has been strug­gling with his game. He hopes to snatch the Scot­tish Open ti­tle and get him­self in fine fet­tle to be ready for the con­quest of his first ma­jor this year – the Bri­tish Open.

Last year’s Scot­tish Open cham­pion, Swe­den’s Norén, will hope to prove that his pre­vi­ous vic­tory was no fluke.

Other con­tes­tants ea­ger to make their mark in­clude Sten­son, also from Swe­den. He is the first male Swedish ma­jor cham­pion, having won the 2016 Bri­tish Open at Royal Troon with a ma­jor cham­pi­onship record score of 264.

He will use the Scot­tish event to gauge his strength a week be­fore he gets ready to be given an­other Claret Jacket. South Africans will also make their pres­ence felt in Scot­land. Tim Clark, win­ner of this event in 2005, to­gether with Ernie Els and Trevor Im­mel­man are to com­pete.

The con­test at Dun­don­ald will ob­vi­ously be in­tense, with play­ers bat­tling against the machi­na­tions of the me­an­der­ing course. It is a course that is char­ac­terised by all num­ber of haz­ards. The putting sur­face is de­lib­er­ately un­even to make it all the more dif­fi­cult for the play­ers and with the first hole, a 420m par-four, to test the com­peti­tors from the on­set.

A solid tee shot to the right cen­tre of the fair­way makes play dif­fi­cult as the green slopes back to front with a hol­low on the front right and all the trou­ble on the left.

The Scot­tish Open will be no easy walk in the park.

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