The Johnnie Walker Championship is played this week at the Jack Nicklaus designed PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.
With so many permutations in terms of Ryder Cup team finalisation, the tournament takes on an additional dynamic and will ensure huge media and public interest through until the final putt is holed.
The event has been played at this venue since 1999 although the PGA Centenary Course was then known as the Monarch’s Course – one of three courses at the Gleneagles Hotel golfing complex.
The defending champion is Marc Warren, who became the first Scottish winner of the event when he won his second European Tour title in a playoff over Simon Wakefield. Warren gave every indication that he is primed for a successful defence by finishing a very impressive 4th at the KLM Open last week.
Lee Westwood has given up the chance to play for a fortune in the US to be in this field. Westwood took a two week break after missing the cut at the PGA Championship and may well be a threat with his batteries recharged. Westwood finished 9th in this event last year.
Justin Rose needs a big week to force his way onto the Ryder Cup team. Like Westwood he is passing up greater riches in the US but he is on a mission and is putting his chance to play for Europe ahead of any other consideration.
Soren Hansen has a good record on this golf course with several near misses. He was 3rd in 2007 and runner up to Paul Casey in 2006. There have been enough top ten finishes in the past few months, including when 6th last week at the KLM, for his good record at Gleneagles to continue.
Darren Clarke may already have confirmed his Ryder Cup position with his win last week but he can make sure with another good week in this event. He is not alone in having an incentive to play well this week however.
There will be a lot of interest in Michael Campbell’s performance this week. In his first real glimpse of his capabilities for several months when 8th last week at the KLM Open, Campbell may well have turned the corner. It was the New Zealander’s first top ten in nearly 12 months. Campbell’s career has often been a roller coaster. When he is good he is very, very good and conversely he can be very bad when things turn the other way.
Other players from Australasia in the field include Mark Brown, who is trying to win his second Johnnie Walker title of the year, Peter O’Malley, Peter Fowler, Marcus Fraser, Matthew Millar, Gareth Paddison and Steve Alker.