I always enjoy watching the Scottish Open but this year it is extra special for me because I have been a member at Royal Aberdeen since 1985 and have played that great course thousands of times.
The course has always been extremely well regarded and has hosted a number of important events over the years, including the 2005 Senior Open Championship (won by Tom Watson), the 2011 Walker Cup (won by Great Britain and Ireland) and the 1988 British Youths Championship (won by Christian Cevaer) but this is the first time that a European Tour event has been played at Royal Aberdeen.
Yesterday in the first round a new course record was set by Rory McIlroy with a great 64. The course was changed about 10 years ago, turning the iconic and unique par 4 12th hole into a longer (but in my opinion much poorer) par 5 by constructing a new green about 90 yards away from the original site. This took the par of the course from 70 to 71 which may have helped (??) to attract events like the Scottish Open, but for many of the people who remember the fantastic old 12th hole it still hurts to see the new 12th.
As a result of this change to the par the previous course record of 63 was consigned to history and the way was open for Rory to become the record holder. The course record of 63 on the old par 70 course was, with all due respect to Mr McIlroy, a far more impressive round of golf. It came in 1960 in a competition called The Philips Trophy which is one of the top amateur competitions for players in the North East of Scotland and would have attracted all the best local players of the time to do battle over 72 holes at Royal Aberdeen. On his way to winning the trophy, Mr J.P. Grant managed to play his remarkable round of 63. Of course it can be said that all rounds of 63 are quite remarkable, but this one must have been more remarkable than most for a number of reasons.
Firstly you could consider the equipment that would have been used... there were no big headed titanium drivers or graphite shafts, no ProV1's or cavity back irons. Another remarkable part of the story of J.P.'s round was that having hit the last green in two he proceeded to three putt for his 63, the first putt being for a 61! Then you could think about the conditions on the day, there was so much wind that nobody else was able to score under par and few others in the field of low handicap players managed to score under 80! It could also be considered that the previous record for the course was 68 so this round was in completely uncharted territory.
Lets see if Rory, or anyone else, manages to beat J.P.'s score before the tournament ends on Sunday.