Johannesburg - Five top players will be among a glittering array of stars to showcase their talent at the Scottish Open, which tees off at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, Scotland, on Thursday.
Rory McIlroy (North Ireland), Henrik Stenson and Alexander Norén (both from Sweden), Rickie Fowler (US) and Adam Scott (Australia) are part of the field that are ranked top on the official world golf rankings.
The event, one of the richest on the European Tour with a prize fund of $7 million (R94 million), will not only be the prelude to the British Open to be contested the following week – it will also stretch the competitors to the limit to see if they are good enough to deal with the tough conditions at Dundonald, which is regarded as one of the world’s trickiest and most unforgiving courses because of its difficult layout.
For McIlroy, who is currently ranked fourth in the world, it will be a matter of getting back to winning ways following a start to the season that has been hampered by a rib injury.
His last victory was the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September. Since then, he has been struggling with his game. He hopes to snatch the Scottish Open title and get himself in fine fettle to be ready for the conquest of his first major this year – the British Open.
Last year’s Scottish Open champion, Sweden’s Norén, will hope to prove that his previous victory was no fluke.
Other contestants eager to make their mark include Stenson, also from Sweden. He is the first male Swedish major champion, having won the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon with a major championship record score of 264.
He will use the Scottish event to gauge his strength a week before he gets ready to be given another Claret Jug.
South Africans will also make their presence felt in Scotland.
Tim Clark, winner of this event in 2005, together with Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman, are to compete.
The contest at Dundonald will obviously be intense, with players battling against the machinations of the meandering course. It is a course that is characterised by all number of hazards. The putting surface is deliberately uneven to make it all the more difficult for the players and with the first hole, a 420m par-four, to test the competitors from the onset.
A solid tee shot to the right centre of the fairway makes play difficult as the green slopes back to front with a hollow on the front right and all the trouble on the left.
The Scottish Open will be no easy walk in the park.