Golf: McDowell apologises over course criticism

CASTLE STUART, United Kingdom - Graeme McDowell has apologised to Scottish Open sponsors for criticising Castle Stuart as the host venue for the tournament.

McDowell, a former Scottish Open winner, said that the tournament had lost its prestige since it moved to the course near Inverness, northeast Scotland, in 2011.

The Northern Irishman is currently practising this week at Muirfield, east of Edinburgh, which next week hosts the British Open.

Former Open winners Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington disagreed with the 33-year-old's assessment, declaring Castle Stuart as ideal to prepare for the prestigious Major.

The chief executive of Scottish Open sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management, Martin Gilbert, said that McDowell had spoken to him to apologise for his remarks.

"Graeme contacted me to apologise and he's not the first person to say something they regret, so we've got no problems whatsoever with him," he said.

"In fact, Graeme's been a true gentleman. He said he'd consider issuing a statement himself but we agreed that would keep the matter running.

"So, my hope it that he will play Royal Aberdeen next year after saying what a great golf course it is.

"He was fantastic for taking the time to get in touch and I really admire him for that. He said we should catch up at The Open for a chat and I was really impressed with how he had handled the situation.

"In fairness, Graeme has a point to a certain extent in terms of old and new links courses.

"It was also interesting to read what Padraig Harrington said about Graeme loving Loch Lomond, where I think everyone enjoyed seeing the Scottish Open being staged.

"But I'm firmly of the view that the Scottish Open should be played on a links course and, for Scottish golf to be trying to sell itself as a global brand, if we don't play this event on links course it would be crazy.

"It's a pity the French and the Irish aren't the other way around as you could possibly have three events - the Irish, Scottish and The Open - all being played on links courses."

On the course, England's John Parry was the early tournament leader, racing to five under par through 10 holes in continuing unseasonal hot conditions in the north of Scotland.