Irish tune up for Troon on links test
Bonny Scotland beckons some of the top golfers in the game as they seek to tune up for The Open at Royal Troon by tackling Castle Stuart, host venue of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The starting field for round one today includes a cohort of seven Major champions headed by Phil Mickelson, winner of three Masters, the US PGA and the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
Mickelson created history by becoming the first player to win the Scottish Open and the Claret Jug in successive weeks three years ago.
That was the last time the Castle Stuart course staged the national championship, so 'Lefty' will hope the omens are good for Troon next week.
The other Major winners in action are Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley, Y E Yang, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle.
Past glories will count for nothing when the golfers face into the fair but relatively benign test today.
The €3.25 million tournament does, however, benefit from an enhanced field due to its prime date ahead of the season's third Major.
Of the six Irish golfers qualified for Troon, four compete in the Scottish Open - Harrington, McDowell, Shane Lowry, and Paul Dunne.
Rory McIlroy, third in the Open de France last Sunday, and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke have opted for a week off.
Harrington finished 30th in France, while McDowell missed the cut in the same event.
Lowry travelled to Firestone to defend his WGC-Bridgestone title.
It was his first tournament since his joint second place at the US Open at Oakmont.
He felt his game was in good shape at Akron ahead of the event but finished tied for 36th as US Open champion Dustin Johnson claimed the title.
The pride of Offaly could take positives from his steady improvement over the four rounds in the no-cut WGC event - 76, 72, 70, 68.
Last Monday he got back across the Atlantic in time to enjoy a day at Wimbledon, celebrating his wife Wendy's, birthday, and now it's back to business to clear out any residue of the Oakmont experience.
"Golf is a strange game because, you know, after finishing second in one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and you have such disappointment.
"It's weird. Unless you win you're disappointed.
"And yet a few days afterwards, there were a few tears here and there, but that's just the way I am.
"I'm an emotional fella, and I want to do well. I wear my heart on my sleeve.
"But you know, speaking to my coach (Neil Manchip), there's so many positives to take from the US Open, and going forward, hopefully I'll look back on that in a few years' time as one week that really stood out to me for the rest of my career," said Lowry.
Paul Dunne has a chance to regroup after missing the cut in Paris last week.
Read more: Dunne achieves Open hat-trick
The Greystones golfer, 23, qualified for Troon by winning the qualifying event at Woburn for the third successive year and will relish the chance to play in the Highlands.
Paul McGinley, the Irish Olympic golf team manager, is also in action this week.
Meanwhile, Rio-bound Leona Maguire is one of 26 amateurs competing in the US Women's Open at Corde Valle in California.
Seamus Power, who is expected to be confirmed as Pádraig Harrington's Olympic partner on Monday, plays in the Web.Com Tour's Lecom Challenge at Findley Lake, New York.
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