Carnoustie places on the line at Scottish Open
With the field for The 147th Open Championship almost complete, the countdown is on until the first tee shots are hit at Carnoustie.
But before that, there are still a handful of places up for grabs and three of those will be filled at the Scottish Open this week.
The European Tour event, which is also the fifth Rolex Series tournament of the year, heads to Gullane where some will scrap for the final spots and others adjust to the Scottish links.
There are plenty of things to look out for, including Champion Golfers of years gone by, major winners and local heroes at one of the European Tour’s biggest events of the year.
Deja Vu for Mickelson?
With a Claret Jug missing from his cabinet, Phil Mickelson chose to sharpen up at the Scottish Open before launching an assault at Muirfield in 2013.
It worked wonders. The three-time Masters champion claimed the title at Castle Stuart, just holding off Branden Grace, and that set him up perfectly for The Open.
Mickelson opened up with a two-under 69 at Muirfield, before two solid rounds of 74 and 72 saw him trail Lee Westwood by five heading into the final round.
But the American produced some of his best ever golf on the final day, firing a majestic 66 to claim his first Claret Jug and a fifth major championship.
This year, he hopes history will repeat itself. “When I won the Scottish Open in 2013 I said at the time that I had proved to myself that I could win on the links, and it has gone down as a special win for me for a lot of reasons.
“It’s a tournament that I’ve enjoyed playing in for a number of years, and to take what I learned that week at Castle Stuart and use it to help get my hands on the Claret Jug after one of the best rounds of my career, was really a fantastic experience.
“I don't think there is a better way to get ready for a Major Championship than playing the week before and getting into contention and coming out on top just gives me more confidence.”
Knox leads Scottish charge
Despite being the home of golf, Scotland has not produced a major winner since Paul Lawrie lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie 19 years ago – but that could be about to change.
Russell Knox is having a summer to remember on the European Tour and will complete his Open warm-up at Gullane this week with one trophy in his cabinet and a second place on his record.
Knox finished runner-up at the French Open last month but then stormed to victory in Ireland on Sunday in clinical fashion, and he leads the Scottish charge at both Gullane and Carnoustie.
"He [Knox] has been saying for a few weeks now that something big was happening," said European Tour player Duncan Stewart.
"It's been coming for a long time, he's just had to be patient. He had a little dip in form, which we all do. He's worked hard, he's got through the rough part.
“He's in the top 50 again and if he can stay there then he's in all the big events.”
Last chance saloon
Knox is joined by a host of Scottish golfers this week who all hope to grab one of the three qualifying spots for The Open.
Martin Laird, Richie Ramsay, David Drysdale, Marc Warren and Stephen Gallacher are all in the field on home soil, with an eye on Carnoustie.
They are not the only ones. Graeme McDowell, US Open champion in 2010, is also in the field, desperate to reach the third major of the year.
“My own game is pretty good,” he said.
“The golf course was more difficult that I thought and proved to be frustrating for a lot of players, but I hit the ball well and there was a lot of good stuff going on heading into the Scottish Open.
“It is my last chance to qualify for Carnoustie so the pressure is off, I feel like it is a free run. I have nothing but positives in my mind.
“The weather looks good and I would love to qualify. I want to be at Carnoustie, it is a course I know well and one I think I can win at.”
5 days to go until The Open. Daily Tickets and a limited number of Weekly Tickets remain available for The 147th Open at Carnoustie. Purchase now at TheOpen.com/Tickets.