Links golf not ideal practice for a links Open

Sam Torrance
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RECENT numbers suggest that playing this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart is a very useful preparation for winning the Open, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

Since the event’s switch to the Inverness links course in 2011, it has acted as a warm-up for both of the men who went on to win the year’s third Major just a few days later.

Darren Clarke played the tournament in 2011 and followed it up with his emotional triumph at Royal St George’s, while Ernie Els was among the field last year and was soon lifting his second Claret Jug.

Next week’s staging of the Open at Muirfield, another Scottish links course, might appear to make Castle Stuart even more suitable, but in fact the two play very differently.

While Castle Stuart is a typical links course, Muirfield does not have the usual characteristics of seaside golf and also boasts one of the finest layouts anywhere.

There is another reason why some big names are not playing this week, and that is that blustery conditions can actually harm your technique. If you have to battle coastal winds for 72 holes you can end up adjusting your swing so much that you screw it up, and what should have been useful practice becomes the opposite. Jeev Milka Singh, one of the best at combating those conditions, is set to defend his title, while Els, Clarke and Phil Mickelson are among the field.

If you ever needed evidence of the vagaries of golf then Graeme McDowell’s excellent win at the Alstom Open de France is it.

On the one hand, a third title in seven events continued the Northern Irishman’s blistering form, yet he missed the cut at the other four outings. It’s very strange, but he’s up to world No6 and that’s fantastic.

Across the pond, Jonas Blixt upstaged the Americans to win the Greenbrier Classic. If a young Swede had done that 20 years ago it would have been a huge story, and the fact it now barely warrants a mention tells you everything about the strength of European golf.

Finally, I must congratulate Andy Murray on winning Wimbledon. I feel honoured to have met him earlier this year, and I hugely enjoyed hearing tens of thousands of Englishman cheering on a Scotsman.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam