A new champion will be crowned at Castle Stuart next month after Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler confirmed he will not defend his crown.
Fowler birdied three of the final four holes in a thrilling finish to win the title by a stroke at Gullane last year. But the world number five has confirmed a scheduling conflict means he will not be heading to Inverness to play in this year’s event.
Scottish Open championship director Peter Adams said: “He is very disappointed he can’t play.
“He has written to Aberdeen Asset Management saying how sorry he is he can’t defend. It is the scheduling this year. But we are very hopeful he will come back at another time, which will work out for him.
“Obviously, everyone is disappointed but we are hopeful he will come back and we are focusing on a really good field anyway.”
The absence of Fowler is disappointing but Adams is delighted Phil Mickelson, who won the event when it was last held at Castle Stuart in 2013 before going on to win the Open at Muirfield the following week, will be returning to the Inverness course.
He said: “He’s a superstar, quite clearly the Scottish Open is a tournament that he likes, and it is on his schedule. To have him come and play here is extraordinary.
“It’s great for the event and, of course, what happened in 2013 when he won here and went on to triumph in the Open is absolute gold for promoters.
“He loves it here. He is very much praising Castle Stuart, so it’s fantastic to have him. There was never a doubt he would play this year. He was always going to play, he entered pre-Christmas.
“So far, so good with Phil, and let’s hope his love for the Scottish Open continues.”
Padraig Harrington and Martin Kaymer have confirmed their places in the field at Castle Stuart from July 7 to 10, bringing the number of former major winners at this year’s championship to eight.
They will also be joined by fellow major winners Darren Clarke, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, Graeme McDowell, YE Yang and Mickelson.
Inverness golfer Russell Knox has had a fine season on the US PGA Tour and will also be lining up at Castle Stuart.
Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart, said: “It is fantastic. It is great to see the likes of Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood coming back and I will be the first to shake their hand as we need the headline stars to support it.
“They will see a difference in the course from when they were last here. We were dealt a hard hand in 2011. But to see people coming back after five years is pleasing.The course has come on a lot since then.
“The Russell Knox factor is huge and it is also fantastic that Martin Kaymer has just confirmed he’ll be here, joining Phil and the other major winners.
“We appreciate the Olympics are causing difficulties in terms of scheduling but we are delighted with a field that we think compares very favourably with the BMW PGA line-up.”
Meanwhile, CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, has been named the official charity of the 2016 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Every birdie, eagle, albatross and hole in one made by the professionals over the four tournament days will generate donations to CLIC Sargent.