Ryder Cup looms large over Gleneagles

Unfairly or otherwise, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles is often viewed as the lesser of Scotland's three European tour events.

Played the week before the Open, the Scottish Open attracts some of the world's best, and October's Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrew's is a heady mix of celebrity and pro.

But now the Johnnie Walker hits back. "It's a big week, can't wait," is Paul Lawrie's view.

Lawrie's presence here however is one of the reasons why there is such a feeling of excitement.

The Aberdonian has, of course, recently secured his place at the Ryder Cup.

"Chuffed to be in, obviously," said Lawrie.

"It's been a long time - 13 years since I played (Ryder Cup) last time, so I can't wait. Sometimes you kind of don't realise how good you've got to play to get in.

"It's a huge achievement."

The Ryder Cup looms large. You simply cannot miss the signs around the course proclaiming Gleneagles as the venue for the 2014 match.

This is also the players' first chance to test their skills on the newly redesigned PGA Centenary course.

It will be interesting to gauge their impressions, especially those who have heavily criticised it in the past, like Ryder Cup stalwart Darren Clarke, who labelled the decision to host the biennial match here as "unbelievable".

But there are more pressing matters. This is the last chance to impress European captain Jose Maria Olazabal before he finalises his team and announces it to the world next Monday. And if you ever need proof that this event can influence such a decision then just ask Edoardo Molinari.

The Italian birdied the last three holes here two years ago to win by a stroke and force his way into Colin Montgomerie's team. A team that would go on to win at Celtic Manor.

Hope then for Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who needs a top two finish to secure the last automatic place up for grabs.

Given then the focus on the Ryder Cup you could be forgiven for forgetting the real reason why everyone is gathered at Gleneagles - a £1.4m European Tour event with a £235,000 cheque on offer to the winner.

Thomas Bjorn will be hoping to defend the title he won 12 months ago after coming through a five-way play-off.

Given he has just been named as a vice-captain for next month's Ryder Cup, guess what subject he is likely to be fielding questions about the most?

This is definitely the moment the Johnnie Walker Championship hits back. But it has Samuel Ryder's famous small gold cup to thank for that.