Scottish Open weathers the storm at Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart
Castle Stuart's first hosting of the Scottish Open had been disrupted by weather

As the third and final round of the Scottish Open got underway on Sunday lunchtime, the European Tour's chief executive, George O'Grady, was asked if the tournament would stay at Castle Stuart given the farcical conditions that destroyed the tournament and, indeed, some of the course.

"I think the exact phrase is the intention is to be here for three years," he said. "Weather will make no difference to what we are doing."

And that is the way it should be, because the competition's first visit to the Highland venue has been enjoyed despite what was thrown at it from the heavens.

And who would have known that was in the offing? The same can be said about the winner here in Inverness.

Play began on Thursday in fine conditions and, as I noted on the day, it was the group that included world number one Luke Donald I decided to watch.

I saw him outscored by both Peter Hanson and Colin Montgomerie on his front nine as he struggled to hold par.

But like the stormy conditions that were to follow, Donald stormed up the leaderboard, with his final round particularly imperious.

There are many who question the value of golf's world number one ranking these days.

Tiger Woods' 623 weeks as number one - albeit a phenomenon - was clearly merited.

However, Donald's form across the week, the fact he also tops the Race to Dubai and with attention now turning towards the upcoming Open Championship at Sandwich all suggest he may be about to make the ranking his own.

Let's face it, 19 under par through 54 holes is more than decent, but is the course here too easy for the big guns?

"Well, we didn't have a lot of wind, so obviously on a links course it is going to make it a lot easier," Donald told BBC Scotland.

"But they decided to come here to give us a little taste of links golf before going to the Open and to try and give us some confidence before it.

"That seems to have happened for a lot and it certainly has with me. It was the perfect tune-up.

"I've always enjoyed this kind of grass. I've played Kingsbarns and it's the same grass there, so I feel very comfortable on a course like this."

Donald's win was almost as good as the Donald tartan trousers he was sporting on Sunday.

The Englishman now heads for Kent and Royal St George's in the most buoyant of moods as he aims to improve on his best Open finish of fifth at Turnberry two years ago and seal a first major.

Luke Donald
Donald's victory sets him up well for next week's Open Championship

One man who will not be going to the Open is Montgomerie.

It was a roller-coaster week for him - promising rounds, flirting with the top of the leaderboard but hanging around the media centre on what turned into a day off on the Saturday and a disappointing final 18 left him frustrated.

It was always going to be a long shot for last year's European Ryder Cup captain as the top-five place he craved disappeared on his final nine holes.

"I need to have a re-think and probably needed four rounds to make it," he told BBC Scotland before making a hasty getaway from the course.

"You can't afford to be throwing four bogeys on a course as easy as this one.

"Being as far back as I am doesn't do anything for anyone, but that's where I am. The back nine on the last day wasn't as good as the first two rounds.

"But the galleries are super. It's great to have an event up here."

An uninterrupted final round ended a tournament that has divided opinion about the move from Loch Lomond.

However, along with Donald, the Highlands have been the winner. Inverness has been full of golf fans who have been out to the course to take in the action.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond was among the crowds and described the event as "hugely important" for the Highlands.

"I think it's a strategic move taking it to a links course before the Open," he said.

"I think people have been hugely impressed by this venue and by the nature of it.

"If you want to be at peace with yourself in the world, this is the type of place you want to be.

"This is a great venue and it's obviously great for the economy and Highlands of Scotland. The decision to come here will be vindicated."

So, no matter what, the Scottish Open will be back here next year. With a bit of luck, the rain will not.

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