The Scottish Open, but not as we know it as fans miss out


Paul Lawrie
Scot Paul Lawrie during the practice day for the Scottish Open
Venue: The Renaissance Club, North Berwick Dates: 1-4 October
Coverage: Highlights of Saturday’s play on BBC Red Button (20:00 BST) and BBC Two (23:20). Highlights of Sunday’s final day will also be on on BBC Two (18:00)

This week’s Scottish Open is one of the biggest sporting events to take place in the country since lockdown, with around 600 people on site at the Renaissance Club until close of play on Sunday.

That’s 124 players, their caddies, coaches, the staff that work on site and the media, although only eight of the latter are accredited for the whole week.

But one group who will not be there is spectators, with plans for a limited number to attend over the weekend shelved amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.

It’s unfamiliar but at least the inclement weather on Wednesday’s practice day gave home favourite Robert MacIntyre some sense of regularity.

“This is what we’re used to,” said the Oban native. “This is bringing people back to what links golf is all about – golf course is firm, the wind’s blowing, it’s going to be a good week.

“But I’m a guy that thrives off [spectators]- if you make a birdie, there’s a roar or a cheer. It gives you an extra buzz.”

‘Staying within the golfing bubble’

Journalists have had to go through rigorous testing for Covid-19 on two occasions and have to stay within the golfing bubble – staying in designated flats and accommodation as the European Tour try and ensure safety.

There’s a small interview area – which is outside for the first time – and social distancing will be enforced throughout. Journalists cannot grab simply players as they are coming off the 18th green.

But the Scottish Open remains one of the most prestigious tournaments on the tour, a Rolex Series event that comes with a prize fund of just under £7m, with the winner picking up just under £1m.

There are 15 Scottish players in the field competing for some of that prize money.

MacIntyre, the highest ranked Scot in the world rankings, is one of them. He recently arrived back from the United States, where he made the cut at the US Open, and is hoping to become the first Scot to win the event since Colin Montgomerie at Loch Lomond in 1999.

Americans Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed – regular visitors to the Scottish Open – have decided not to come, but Austrian Bernd Wiesberger will defend his title and English world number 17 Tommy Fleetwood is the highest ranked player.

Wiesberger was 22 under par when he secured victory in North Berwick last year but MacIntyre says changes to some of the tees means “it’s a completely different course and there’s a bite to it as well”.

“The scoring’s going to be nowhere near what it was,” added the Scot.

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