Exemption for Lytham provides Scottish Open lure

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The Independent Online

Back by popular demand, the Scottish Open is once more on the schedule for the first time since 1996. In its traditional pre-Open week slot the event had a successful run at Gleneagles before an ill-fated move to Carnoustie. Now at Loch Lomond, whose own tournament ended after five years because of a lack of sponsorship, the event is bigger and better than ever before.

In danger of losing such a prestigious date on the schedule, the club, owned by the American property developer Lyle Anderson, responded by promising to underwrite the return of the Scottish Open with prize-money doubled to £2.2m.

Colin Montgomerie has always been a vocal supporter of the return of an event he has yet to win. Or at least had not won before the announcement last night that the winners of the Loch Lomond tournaments – Thomas Bjorn, in the same year that Ian Woosnam won the last Scottish Open, Tom Lehman, Lee Westwood, Montgomerie and Ernie Els last year – have "all been accorded the status of Scottish Open champions retrospectively".

The quality of the winners here indicates the strength of the course and the tournament, but this is a blatant rewriting of history. Els is the only one to miss out this week as he rests an injured back before next week's Open at Lytham, where Lehman won in 1997.

Greg Norman, whose business interests have limited his play this year, and John Daly are also here but, more pertinently, given the massive Ryder Cup points available, Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik will be hoping for high finishes this week and next to ease Sam Torrance's wild card problems.

For those not yet exempt for next week, there are 15 places available here. The increased number is in part due to the tournament reverting to a Sunday finish. Anyone making the cut and appearing in the draw for the final two rounds will be automatically scratched from Final Qualifying, which remains on its traditional Sunday-Monday dates.

But there will be plenty to play for with seven players gaining exemptions from a mini order of merit that has run since the Volvo PGA Championship – in which Ian Woosnam is currently second and Adam Scott and Paul Casey seventh and eighth respectively – and an additional eight players still not exempt earning places for Lytham.

After all the rain here in the last two days it was a wise move of the club to have all 18 greens relaid at a cost of £650,000. "To re-do all 18 greens in seven months and get them as good as they are is fantastic," said Montgomerie. "The course is in great shape."

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