Scottish Open Deal Bad News For The Journeymen

It’s great for the tournament. But it’s not good news for everyone.

Scottish Open Deal
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s great for the tournament and will only serve to grow The Scottish Open’s status on the world stage. But it’s not good news for everyone.

Scottish Open Deal Bad News For The Journeymen

Scottish Open Deal Bad News For The Journeymen

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The announcement this week that the Scottish Open will be co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour in 2022 has rightly been heralded as big news for the tournament and for Scotland.

The event will continue to be hosted the week before The Open Championship through to at least 2025 and, with the top players increasingly seeing the value of gaining links experience the week prior to the year’s final Major, the strength of the field continues to grow.

Now that the tournament will also count towards the FedEx Cup, even more PGA stars are sure to make the journey across the Atlantic a week earlier next year.

There will be 73 places in next year’s Genesis Scottish Open for PGA Tour players and 73 for European Tour players. Those with dual status will count towards the PGA Tour allocation.

That should mean the event will see an exceptionally strong field assembled. That’s great for spectators, for TV fans, for tourism and for all the sponsors and supporters.

But there’s a group who won’t be cheering so loudly at the Scottish Open deal – The journeymen of the European Tour who may well be denied a crack at one of their season’s biggest tournaments.

On the European Tour it’s increasingly difficult for players on the fringes to step up towards the upper echelons.

Those coming in through qualifying school or via the Challenge Tour for example face an uphill battle.

Their lower status means that they don’t gain automatic entry into many of the more significant events – those which carry the most ranking points and, of course, prize money.

They won’t get into the WGC events automatically and may only just sneak into the bigger European Tour competitions – the Rolex Series tournaments for instance.

If they don’t get a start, they don’t get a chance to earn the cash and points that will gain them more starts and status – it’s a catch 22.

The Scottish Open was a Rolex Series event this season, carrying significant prize money and ranking points.

The top-15 from the 2019 Challenge Tour and the first three from Q school did make it into the field, providing them with a massive opportunity to improve their chances of making it into more of the bigger events and, more importantly, secure their playing rights for another season.

Take Jack Senior as an example. The Englishman went into this year’s Abrdn Scottish Open having picked up less than €100,000 on the European Tour through the 2021 season.

He was outside the mark to retain his card for next year down in 129th place on the Race to Dubai.

But he played superbly well at the Renaissance Club, finished in a tie for 10th and picked up €128,000, catapulting him up the Race to Dubai ranking to 86th.

Not only that, but Senior’s finish in the Scottish Open also secured him a start in the following week’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

He played well in Kent too, making the cut and picking up a further €22,000.

He moved into the top-80 on the Race to Dubai standings.

Senior made the field for the Scottish Open this year, through his sixth-place finish in the 2019 Challenge Tour.

But if only 73 places had been available for European Tour players, as will be the case in 2022, he wouldn’t have had a start.

He would probably have missed out on a total of €150,000, wouldn’t have secured that place in The Open and wouldn’t have bumped himself into a position on the Race to Dubai where he’s now likely to retain playing privileges for 2022.

And he wasn’t the only player to make significant strides in East Lothian – Matthew Jordan – a Challenge Tour graduate, finished tied 19th to climb from 152nd to 115th on the rankings.

Another Challenge Tour grad, Connor Syme of Scotland, picked up valuable points and players like Ross Fisher and Matthieu Pavon – lowly ranked from their Race to Dubai finish in 2019, earned €94,000 and €107,000 respectively.

It would be likely none of these golfers would have be in the field if only 73 spots were available to European Tour players.

For all the fanfare of the Scottish Open deal then, and it should be stressed the co-sanctioning should be viewed as a positive step, spare a thought for the journeymen.

They’ve just seen another rung of the ladder removed, making it even more difficult to climb.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?