Branden Grace (@BrandenGrace) grew up playing at Fancourt, where The Links taught him to play with a low ball flight and get imaginative when things got shaky. This season he’s been off the boil for the most part, but a return to links golf at this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open should help him feel at home.
It was no surprise that Grace made a playoff at the Scottish Open last year, where he lost to Phil Mickelson a week before the left hander became an Open Champion. This year Scotland’s national golf open heads to Royal Aberdeen for the first time, where a links trial awaits ahead of The Open at Royal Liverpool.
Mickelson is looking to become the first player ever to defend a Scottish Open title, but he’s also thinking about his title defence at The Open.
“You've got to maneuver yourself around the bunkers and keep the ball in play, get it up on the green and have some great lag putting and short game around the green because you'll have a lot of 60‑ to 100‑foot chips and putts.
“I think Royal Aberdeen is a great preparation for next week and given the forecast for some potential rain and rough weather next week, having the chance to get acclimated to it this week is a great benefit,” he said.
Grace stands on the other end of the spectrum, looking to use the change to links golf as a turnaround spark to his season, which has a best result of second place at the Volvo Golf Champions in January.
Fellow young star Rory McIlroy has skipped the Scottish Open in years gone by, but with this year’s change of venue he’s teeing up in Aberdeen.
“Now that the Scottish Open is here at Royal Aberdeen and it's a true links test, I think a lot of guys have came to the realization that to play competitive golf and to play it on a course like this, could really benefit you going into next week,” he said.
Rickie Fowler, the American wunderkind who is yet to achieve his full potential, had a similar outlook on links golf.
“It is different as far as it's a different style of golf than at home but to me, I enjoy playing it so much that it doesn't… I don't feel out of place here. I may talk a little different than the local Scots but‑fit in on the golf course,” he said.