Rory McIlroy returns to defend Scottish Open title

All eyes will be back on Rory McIlroy as he defends his title at the Genesis Scottish Open while preparing for his last chance this year to end his vexing 10-year major title drought.

The PGA Tour is co-sanctioning the event with the DP World Tour for the third straight year. When players tee off Thursday at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland, the field will include many of the top 20 players in the world as they work on their links golf skills ahead of next week’s Open Championship.

Scottie Scheffler is taking the week off from competition, leaving World No. 2 McIlroy as the main draw. The Northern Irishman will play for the first time since coughing up a two-stroke lead with four holes to play at the U.S. Open last month, opening the door for Bryson DeChambeau to win.

“I keep saying to people, it was a great day until it wasn’t,” McIlroy said. “There’s a couple things I would like to have back but overall I can’t fault how I played or the game plan that I had or how I sort of handled myself the whole way throughout the tournament.

“So you know, just nice to get back on the golf course and play this week and two good opportunities to get myself back where I need to be and obviously at (Royal Troon) next week as well.”

The 18th hole at the Renaissance Club now features a plaque situated where McIlroy hit a 2-iron 202 yards into the wind to 10 feet of the pin, setting up the winning birdie on Sunday.

“I’ve seen it online, yeah. They spelt my name wrong first time around. It’s there now thankfully,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy beat Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre by one stroke, and MacIntyre is certain to be a home-crowd favorite again this year as he tries to become the first player from Scotland to win the national open since Colin Montgomerie in 1999.

MacIntyre has added to his credentials by winning the RBC Canadian Open last month for his first PGA Tour title.

“This is probably the most calm I’ve been. It’s not been as frantic. Things have been under control,” MacIntyre said. “Yeah, my game has been up-and-down, but it’s been up-and-down my whole golfing life. But this is the one that, as a Scot, I really want.”

Other big names in the field include Xander Schauffele, who won the Scottish in 2022 and the PGA Championship earlier this year; major champs Wyndham Clark, Collin Morikawa, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; and South Korea’s Tom Kim, who has finished third and tied for sixth in two Scottish Open starts.

They will play a par-70, 7,237-yard track on the Scottish coast that sets up much differently than the typical PGA Tour course back in the U.S.

“There’s certain adjustments that you need to make for sure,” Kim said of links golf. “With tee shots, you’re definitely hitting it a little bit lower than you would actually normally do just because of wind and using the ground to your advantage.”