The European Tour rose to the challenging situation that they (and the wider world of golf) found themselves in during 2020. A lot of work was done very quickly to start a host of new tournaments including the Scottish Championship. The new tournament was originally planned as a one-off but it was a success and the European Tour have decided to stick with it giving Scottish golf fans another chance to see some of the best in the business strut their stuff.
The Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews is an excellent test of links golf which is sure to provide a compelling and challenging test for as long as the European Tour remains committed to the Hero Open, even though a tournament of the same name was held In Birmingham in 2020.
|2022||Fairmont St Andrews||Sean Crocker|
|2021||Fairmont St Andrews||Daniel Gavins|
|2020||Fairmont St Andrews||Adrian Otaegui|
2022: Sean Crocker
Golf was in a weird, divisive place ahead of the Hero Open. It was, therefore, heartening to hear Eddie Pepperell’s interview after his final round of the event. Pepperell, who had set the clubhouse lead, said that he would not begrudge Sean Crocker from winning the tournament, adding that he “really likes” the American. So it was that Crocker saw the job out and Pepperell was able to take the positives from a very welcome return to form.
Crocker was the player left celebrating though. The 25-year-old went into Sunday with a cosy two-shot lead but had to show tremendous resolve to haul himself back up the leaderboard after his cushion was swiftly eroded during the final round. It was very impressive to see Crocker stick to his task and trust that he could do enough given the pressure applied by Pepperell and Oliver Hundeboll.
Crocker’s game won him many fans over the week at Fairmont St Andrews as did his honesty afterwards. When asked how he felt standing over a four-footer to win the tournament his reply was: “Nervous as hell.” Crocker resolved to focusing on his technique and that approach paid dividends as he avoided the need for a playoff to claim his maiden DP World Tour title.
2021: Daniel Gavins
Winning on home soil is special for any professional golfer. Doing so to claim your first win on the European Tour is the stuff of dreams so it will take a long time before the smile is gone from the face of Grant Forrest. The 28-year-old achieved his dream of becoming a European Tour winner by pipping James Morrison by a single shot at Fairmont St Andrews.
Forrest’s first thoughts after holing the winning putt were for his dad who he lost in 2021. “I just wish my dad was here to see this – he would be so chuffed,” he said afterwards. He certainly did his dad and the rest of his family and friends proud with an excellent display of golf which saw him become the first Scottish winner in Scotland since Paul Lawrie won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2012.
As predicted, scoring at Fairmont St Andrews was easy for players of the calibre competing. The resort course only poses so many questions and Morrison had no problem answering them with a blistering round of golf on Sunday to set the clubhouse lead at -23. Forrest was playing a couple of groups behind and standing on the 17th green he knew that he had to pick up two shots. That is exactly what he did, closing out a round of 66 for an emotional and hard-earned win.
2020: Adrian Otaegui
The European Tour had returned from its enforced break for a few months before the inaugural edition of the Scottish Championship but there was still a real appetite among some big names to get their teeth stuck into some links golf. The Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews was the stage on which a field including the likes of Matt Wallace, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington did battle but it was Adrian Otaegui who reigned supreme.
Otaegui had already won two European Tour events but this was a first as both of his previous wins at this level came in matchplay events. The consistency required to win a stroke play tournament over four rounds is a very different challenge and the Spaniard was delighted with his performance that saw him finish four shots clear of Wallace in second place.
“Stroke plays is my favourite way of golf, I think it is the proper way,” said Otaegui after his win. Many would add that links golf is “proper” golf in that it reflects the way that golf was originally played and that made Otaegui’s win even more special.