Talks to retain the Scottish Open partnership between main sponsors Aberdeen Standard Investments and the Scottish Government will begin “sooner rather than later” with a view to another long-term arrangement in the current date.
ASI chairman Martin Gilbert and VisitScotland head of events Paul Bush are determined to maintain the Scottish as a Rolex Series event on the European Tour in the current time slot before the Open Championship.
“It works for us,” said Gilbert. “We think VisitScotland also see the benefits of it to attract the golf tourists.
“These pictures beamed around the world by are just magical, and the benefit to Scotland of that is considerable.”
As for the spot in the schedule, there is a strong partnership between the two sponsors and the Tour.
“I think everyone wants to hold onto the week, the Tour do, we do, Visit Scotland do,” said Gilbert. “It’s up to us to make sure we don’t lose it. For Scottish golf it’s the most important week in the calendar so we do need to make sure.
“We almost lost it eight years ago to Sweden so we can’t ever get in that position again. After 34 successive years, we don’t want to be remembered as the people who lost the date.”
Bush said that the Scottish Government recognised the benefit of sporting events generally and specifically their long-term involvement in golf.
“We’ve always been in it for the long haul,” he said. “Other countries go in and out, the European Tour know they’ve got a trusted partner with us.”
In the meantime, it seems the Scottish is likely to stay in East Lothian for the next few years, with the previous policy of taking the event around the country put on ice because of a difficulty in finding suitable venues.
“We have our headquarters here and we have a range of golf courses here,” continued Gilbert. “We regularly go through the other venues we could have, but this works best logistically.
“Believe me we’ve been through every potential venue. North Berwick is too short, Cruden Bay, logisitically it’s like Royal St George’s, there’s one track in and you’d need to use a hybrid course there. I’d love to go to Dornoch but you can imagine the complaints.
“There’s Kingsbarns maybe, but it’s already on the tour at the Dunhill. We also need someplace that can also host the women’s event, which is arguably a stronger field, especially next year when it’s scheduled between the two women’s majors.”
There was no hard and fast rule that the Scottish can’t use the Open venues Muirfield, Carnoustie, Troon and Turnberry, but they didn’t want to step on the R&A’s toes.
“I think Royal Aberdeen a few years ago was perceived as being a bit too tricky, and Carnoustie is still thought of as being too hard back from back in the mid-90s,” said Gilbert.
“You need a balance, players want to be challenged but they also don’t want to be tested too hard the week before the Open.”
A case in point was the Renaissance at the weekend, where the play-off score was a record 22-under and the cut fell at five-under.
“We’ll get feedback from the players and make adjustments,” said Gilbert. “It’s certainly easier to adjust a course that is regarded as too easy than one that’s thought of as too difficult.”