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Scottish Open retains elite Rolex Series status and pre-Open time slot in European Tour’s new schedule

The Scottish Open has become one of golf's best brands under the current partnership.
The Scottish Open has become one of golf's best brands under the current partnership.

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open will retain the prized pre-Open slot and have an enhanced prizefund as part of the European Tour’s schedule for 2021.

The Tour’s elite Rolex Series has been trimmed to just four events but one of them is the Scottish, which will see prizemoney rise to $8 million.

The Abu Dhabi Championship, BMW PGA Championship and the season-ending DP World Championship are the other three events which retain Rolex Series status.

The Scottish will be in its customary slot in the week prior to the Open Championship on July 8-11, and for a third year in a row will be played at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.

SThe Scottish Open will return to The Renaissance Club.

A deal to extend the contract between partners Aberdeen Standard Investments, VisitScotland and the European Tour has yet to be officially confirmed, but it’s understood that discussions are well enough advanced for the parties to be happy to put their name on tour’s new schedule.

ASI first sponsored the Scottish Open in 2011, but their contract as title sponsor expired after this year’s championship in October.

The tour will make two other stops in Scotland in 2021. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns will be relaunched in late September after it was cancelled this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the tour will return to the Fairmont St Andrews resort for the Hero Open from August 5-8.

The tournament takes place this week at The Fairmont, St Andrews.
The Fairmont, St Andrews.

The Kingask hotel complex hosted a UK Swing event at short notice for the tour in October.

It’s clear that the Tour decision to cut the number of Rolex Series events – the Irish and Italian Opens and the Nedbank Challenge will be staged in 2021 but no longer under the umbrella of the elite sponsorship, while the Turkish Airlines Open appears to have been scrapped – is part of the new strategic partnership announced with the PGA Tour and designed to make it simpler for top players from both tours to compete.

The experience of re-scheduling the 2020 Tour during the pandemic also had an effect on the way the tour will run in future, said chief executive Keith Pelley.

“There is no question that the challenge of reshaping our 2020 season in many ways informed our approach to 2021,” he said.

European Tour chief Keith Pelley
European Tour chief Keith Pelley.

“One of the key learnings was to group events together in terms of their geographical location to create a more travel friendly season for our members. That is reflected in numerous concentrations of event locations.

“Another was to continue to enhance our Rolex Series events at strategic points in the global golfing calendar when the European Tour will be the focal point of golf on the world stage.

“This is one of the many aspects we will continue to develop in our Strategic Alliance discussions with the PGA Tour, following our historic partnership announcement last month.”

The tour will operate “swings” in the UK, with the Wales and English Opens restored to the schedule having been revived during the return after lockdown this year.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett will host the British Masters – also with an increased prizefund – at The Belfry, where the tour also returned after a long absence in 2020.

All UK Swing events were played for a prizefund of €1 million in 2020 but this will rise in 2021. A further new event in the UK in July, which will be unveiled early in the New Year, is to be co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA.

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