EUROPEAN champion, Bruce Mouat, is hoping to get 2020 off to the best possible start, with a win in the Perth Masters, which begin today.

The 25-year-old skip and teammates Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan have had little time to celebrate new year, with their first competitive outing already upon them, and a new-look to the event this year adds another element to the first competition of the year.

Mouat and his rink had a hugely successful year in 2018, winning European gold and World Championship bronze, but a disappointing result at the European Championship trials last year, where they failed to reach the final, meant they were denied the opportunity to defend their European title last November.

They are aiming to get this year off to a positive start but with the strength of the opposition, they will need to be at their very best in Perth if they are to claim the title.

Mouat will be up against former world and Olympic champion Brad Gushue from Canada, while another multiple Grand Slam winning skip Mike McEwen, also from Canada, has also made the trip to compete in the 24-team men’s event.

Mouat has avoided both Canadian rinks in the pool stages, but he and his team will still have to play well to progress as they have been grouped with one of Scotland’s most promising young curlers, Ross Whyte.

With Mouat and his rink not showing their best so far this season, the 25-year-old is looking to put that right over the next few days.

“Hopefully we can play well, defend our title and get back into our winning ways that we’ve had in our first two seasons together, but have been struggling to get to in the first half of this season. So, we’re very excited to start competing in the New Year,” the Edinburgh man said.

“It is always a great opportunity to play in Perth ahead of the Scottish the following month and with the Scottish looking like it’s going to be so hotly contested this year in the men’s field, we are going to try to learn as much as we can ahead of that.

“Hopefully we’ll get to play some really tough opposition, including having Ross Whyte in our section which will be the first time we play him this season.”

Whyte’s team has the advantage of being underdogs but they have the benefit of local knowledge to call upon, with Perth curlers Robin Brydone and Duncan McFadzean in their line-up, which also includes Euan Kyle.

The rink come into the event in exceptional form, having reached the knockout stages of all nine events they have contested, picking up two titles, at the Prague Classic and on their last outing, in the Dumfries Challenger Series event, in what has been their first season playing full-time on the senior men’s tour.

“It’s been a fantastic season so far,” said 21-year-old Whyte.

“We’re just going to keep working on it and look to keep getting better as the season goes on. We feel we can add to it and make it a very, very successful year.

“We had a great weekend in Dumfries just before the Christmas break. Hopefully we can get as good a grip of the ice in Perth as we did there and continue our run of form. We’ve just been enjoying playing as a team this year, we’re really training hard in the gym and on the ice at the NCA.

“This will be a great preparation for the Scottish in February, which is going to be a big month for all the Scottish teams, pushing for the main goal of the year and we know we can’t stop training as hard as we are now if we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to go on to the Scottish and compete with the best in Scotland.”

For the first year, there is also a women’s event being held simultaneously, with there being no shortage of star names in the line-up.

Former world champions and Olympic medallist Even Muirhead will be in action, as will Asian champions Team Han from China and Switzerland’s two-time world champion Binia Feltscher.

And reigning national champions Team Jackson will also be in confident mood as they return to the scene of that Scottish Championship success.