Damned by faint praise? “It’s a nice piece of land,” suggested Henrik Stenson of The Renaissance after a neatly assembled six-under 65 in round one of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. “But the design is not what we are used to seeing when we are talking links.”

Mother Nature sticking her oar in over the past couple of days has not helped on that front, of course. In fact, an oar would have come in pretty handy given the deluges that have been dumped on this neck of the woods.

It was unexpectedly lovely yesterday, mind you, but the rain in the build up to the domestic showpiece had taken a considerable amount of bite out of this so-called modern links and the largely benign conditions left it vulnerable to the kind of sustained bombardment that should have been accompanied by mortar fire and the establishing of a beachhead.

Depending on what you are looking for in the build up to next week’s Open Championship, the Scottish Open has to try to balance a handy links tune-up with a test that is not going to completely mangle the minds or the swings of those preparing for the ultimate seaside examination.


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Stenson, the 2016 Open champion at Troon, had a simple summing up of his own experiences yesterday.

Asked if he would have preferred a more “linksy” test, the Swede responded with a firm, “yes”, before adding: “Dundonald [the Scottish Open host in 2017] was similar. If the wind starts blowing real hard and you want to knock it down, you have ridges and slightly raised greens so it is hard to play the shots you would like to play. There are a few greens that are very busy and have lots of humps and elevations

“As of now, the biggest difference, or the one thing we are not super happy about, is that we have had so much rain and it is getting soft. It’s certainly more target golf than links golf. You might argue it’s not the practice we want for next week.

“You want to be in the mindset of landing a pitching wedge five or six paces short of the pin and skipping forward, but all of a sudden they are now spinning back.

“Normally you want time to re-adjust coming from target golf. It’s almost like you have to force yourself in the other direction.”

Another past Open champion, Padraig Harrington, has arrived in East Lothian from the western fringes of the Emerald Isle where he was contesting last week’s Irish Open over the classic, old school links of Lahinch. The European Ryder Cup skipper and three-time major winner knocked his way round yesterday in 67 blows for a sturdy four-under start and, in many ways, echoed Stenson’s sentiments.


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“I like the venue and I like the golf course,” said the Dubliner of the undoubted charms of The Renaissance. “It’s perhaps too nice a venue. Maybe a trickier more linksy golf course would offer better preparation for next week?

“Last week’s course at the Irish Open was very similar to Portrush. Here it’s bigger greens, bigger targets. While I like this course it’s not really the same as next week. It’s just not as tight here, it’s a bigger concept.”

There were still plenty of perils and pitfalls, however, despite a day of low scoring. Harrington found that out for himself.

The new rule of golf which has reduced the time allowed to search for a ball to three minutes nearly cost Harrington on his 16th hole when he veered off into treacherous territory.

“My round could have been better but it definitely could have been worse,” said the 47-year-old. “I hit it in the heavy rough a couple of times and that three minutes goes really quickly.

“I hit it left on the 16th and by the time everybody gets in to look for it there’s not much time to spare. Thankfully a photographer found it but I was sweating on it.

“I ended up making a birdie so that photographer will get a smile for the camera next time. He only got a golf ball so far but a beer is on the way for him.”