Barclays Scottish Open, Loch Lomond, 8-11 July Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio Scotland, with updates on BBC Radio 5 live
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Mickelson could become the new world number one at Loch Lomond
By Clive Lindsay
BBC Scotland at Loch Lomond
The Scottish Open, dress-rehearsal or bridesmaid, forever lives in the shadow of its bigger brother, the Open.
It profits by their proximity, attracting world stars who would otherwise only grace the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond as guests or paid-up members of this most exclusive of golf clubs.
And it is a coveted prize in itself, not just for the £500,000 cheque on offer to the winner.
Yet many of those who take to the first tee on Thursday, not to mention the assembled media from around the world, have one eye firmly on what it all means for St Andrews next week - and, this year, on October's Ryder Cup.
Many do not see Loch Lomond's lush, almost American fairways as ideal preparation for a major that is often played on barren links courses - and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, for one, has this year given it a miss with his young eyes firmly on a bigger goal.
England's Paul Casey decided against competing at Loch Lomond because of concerns over the condition of greens given a battering by a harsh Scottish winter.
And, not for the first time, the tournament is missing the biggest name of all, Tiger Woods, who withdrew only this week not wholly for golfing reasons.
Montgomerie joy at European strength
There will be no links course alternative in Ireland for the world number one, who played in Tuesday's JP McManus Pro-Am in Limerick then headed back to Florida "to see my kids" before his planned return to Scotland.
Colin Montgomerie thinks that Woods is still a contender for winning his 15th major despite his domestic difficulties.
"If Tiger plays the way he did in 2000 and 2005, yes, he is," said the Scot. "It depends on how he is to cope with the situation that he finds himself in.
"But, at the same time, he's played two majors now since he came back to play, the Masters and the US Open, and you have to say he's finished fourth in both of them.
"So it would be a tough guy to bet against him on a course that is entirely suited to his strength, which is putting.
"I think sometimes a break from the game is a good thing. From what I've seen of his performance over the last weeks on tour, it might be a positive thing. He knows the course well enough."
Woods' absence gives Phil Mickelson the opportunity to take over from his fellow American as world number one, should he finish in the top two at Loch Lomond, and the man seeking his first Open win obviously views this week's tournament with much more relish.
Mickelson not concerned by rankings
"I always look forward to these two weeks," said Mickelson. "I think the best way to get in playing condition for the Open is to play well, get into contention and compete on Sunday for the title here."
Mickelson revealed that he will attempt at Loch Lomond to perfect the extra power he believes he will require with his driver if he is to win at St Andrews.
Martin Kaymer hopes a good finish at last week's French Open is a good omen for Loch Lomond, having won both tournaments last year, and dismisses the popular opinion that it is impossible to win this week and then win the Open.
"When you win a tournament, you're playing well, so I really don't see a reason why you shouldn't play well the next week," he said.
European captain Montgomerie believes there has never been so many talented golfers chasing a place in his Ryder Cup team to face the USA and Kaymer, who is among the hopefuls, admits that October's event is always high on his mind.
I've got one eye on next week all the time. This week, it's about getting the body back in shape and the business head screwed back on
"I see it as a bit more motivation," said the German, who lies a healthy fifth in the European points table.
"Last week, going into the final round, I had not the perfect start on Sunday and then I was thinking of the Ryder Cup and all of a sudden I got a little more excited, a little bit more motivated and all of a sudden I made a few birdies."
Graeme McDowell, on the other hand, arrived at Loch Lomond with only the Limerick pro-am behind him since winning the US Open on 21 June.
However, despite the subsequent celebrations, he insists he has his feet firmly back on the ground, greens and fairways - and has even fitted in a practice round at St Andrews.
"My expectations are not huge this week, no doubt about it," said the 2008 Scottish Open winner.
"But I've got one eye on next week all the time. This week, it's about getting the body back in shape and the business head screwed back on. I just need to shake the rust out of the system."
By a week on Sunday, the world will know whose preparations proved to be best for Loch Lomond and for St Andrews as the Open returns to the home of golf.
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