Whatever happens at The Open’s final qualifier next Tuesday, Michael Stewart will still come up smelling of roses.

“My wife is a florist and has the contract to do the flowers at Royal Troon, so I’ll be there anyway,” he said of the flooery furnishings at the 152nd championship’s host venue in his home town “Hopefully, though, I’ll be there in a playing capacity.”

In last July’s 36-hole qualifier at Dundonald Links, Ayrshiremen Stewart rose to the occasion – there’s another ropey reference to flowers for you - and a closing 66 saw him top the qualifying standings as he earned a major debut at Hoylake.

A year on, Stewart returns to Dundonald looking to feed off those memories and create some new ones. He’ll need more than a feel-good factor to get through, mind you.

Since that Open outing at Royal Liverpool, Stewart, the former Scottish Amateur champion, has missed 13 of his last 14 cuts on the European Challenge Tour. A niggling hip injury, meanwhile, which is also giving his back gyp, has hindered his progress too

On the face of it, then, Stewart is not heading into the two-round scramble in the best of fettle but the inspiring lure of an Open in his own backyard can have a galvanising effect.

“It's easy to be downbeat in the situation but it’s 36-holes at a course (Dundonald) that I have great memories of,” said the 34-year-old as he looks to lift himself for a qualifying assault.

“To be honest, if The Open wasn’t being held at Troon I may have skipped the qualifier due to my niggle as 36-holes in one day could be tough. But I have to give it a go. Funnily enough, The Open was supposed to be at Troon last year, but Covid pushed it to 2024.

“The injury has made me take a step back and realise that, as much as I’d love to get through, it’s not the be all and end all.”

Stewart certainly revelled on the big stage at Hoylake last summer. He was tied seventh after round one, sharing 11th at halfway and was still on the fringes of the top-20 heading into a sodden closing day that was wetter than the ancient mariner’s sou-wester.

A final round 76 dropped him to 52nd spot but his cheque for almost £35,000 was a sizeable hike from his previous best pay-day of £12,000 for winning on the now defunct PGA EuroPro Tour a couple of years ago.

“In the end, I won what was more than a second-place finish on the Challenge Tour would be, so it was still a lot of money for me,” he reflected. “But I didn’t deal with the conditions very well and was maybe too tentative.

"At 23rd going into the final round, I was never going to win but there was a chance to move up the leaderboard instead of just playing for survival. I’d never played for that kind of money before so it was all different for me. It could’ve been life changing.

“I got married in March and, even last year, I was thinking, ‘jeez, this can pay for a huge chunk of the wedding’. Daft things like that go through your head.”

That same heid also holds some nice recollections of past Opens at Troon. “In 2004, we got word that Tiger Woods was going out at stupid-o-clock in the morning for a practice the Sunday before and was doing a little loop of holes,” added Stewart of this dawn patrol as a teenager.

“We picked him up on the 15th. There were maybe six or seven folk there and we just walked in with him. It was amazing to watch.

“In 2016, I got to spend time with Jason Day through a mutual friend. He was the world No 1 at the time. He invited me to walk 18 holes with him on the Tuesday and he was asking me for advice about the course. It was pretty cool and a great insight.”

Here in 2024, Stewart will join 288 qualifying hopefuls spread across four courses who are competing for just 16 or so Open places. It’s a tough old school but you’ve got to be in it to win it.

“I'm not putting too much pressure on myself but it would be fairytale stuff to get into an Open at Troon,” he said. 

Like his wife's flooers, Stewart will be hoping his game blooms at the right time.