Henrik Stenson, the magnificent winner of last year's famous 145th Open Championship battle at Royal Troon, heads this week's field for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
On the other hand, Phil Mickelson, the magnificent loser of last year's two-man battle, rated by many as one of the greatest in the Open's long and distinguished history, is giving the Scottish Open a miss this year despite the fact that his victory in this championship in 2013 helped propel him to victory in the 142nd Open a week later.
Stenson, who has been struggling to rekindle the spark of his Royal Troon triumph since his major breakthrough there, is clearly hoping that playing links golf at Dundonald this week will give him the same winning momentum that it gave him last year and four of the other five previous Open champions who used it as a warm-up.
They are Rory McIlroy (T14 at Royal Aberdeen in 2014), Mickelson (1st at Castle Stuart in 2013), Ernie Els (T52 at Castle Stuart in 2012) and Darren Clarke (T66 at Castle Stuart in 2011).
Zach Johnson, the American who won The Open in 2015, was the one exception. He sat out the Scottish Open and this year Mickelson until now a regular starter in the event, has changed his usual approach and like Johnson will spend this week sizing up the latest Open battle zone, in this case, Royal Birkdale.
Mickelson, a five-time major champion who came away from last week's Greenbrier Classic well-pleased with his game after firing a 6-under 64 in the closing round, said on Sunday: "It (that 64) will help, But more than that I came in here early, went to the Sporting Club and spent time getting my distance controls dialed in with each iron.
"It's nice to get a little bit of momentum and to finally shoot a number that I feel like I've been playing well enough to shoot.
"I'm going to head over there (UK) later this week and get in a few extra days at Birkdale. It was where I played my first Open Championship in 1991 so I have a real affinity for the course.
"And at least I've won the Open now. For a number of years, decades even, I always wanted to win, always believed I would win, but never broke through so that win at Muirfield really meant a lot to me."
Meanwhile, back at Dundonald this week American World No 10 Rickie Fowler has been preferred to both Stenson, the World No 7, and Rory McIlroy, the World No 4, as their Dundonald favourite.
In one of the strongest international fields ever attracted to an event that grows in importance every year he tops their winners betting list at 8/1 followed by McIlroy at 9/1, Stenson and fellow Swede Alex Noren, the World No 10 and defending champion, at 16/1 and Americans Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar and Australia's Adam Scott all at 20/1.
It says something about the strength of the field when you note that major winners like German's Martin Kaymer and the USA'S Jason Dufner are some way down the list at 50/1 and 55/1 respectively.
Fowler probably deserves to be on top, however. although Noren may have something to say about that.
Last year Fowler skipped the defence of the Scottish Open title he won in 2015, but this year he is back looking to win again - and in very good nick.
He hasn't always been able to snap up all the chances of glory that have come his way this season, but his game has been solid as his six top five and three top 20s in his last 12 starts attest to - and his third-place finish at the Quicken Loans two weeks back should have given him confidence ahead of his visit to Britain.
McIlroy, who missed the cut at the Irish Open last week, has had his flashes of brilliance this year, but in between an early-season ankle injury and his recent marriage, he has never been able to find the kind of consistency that earned him four majors before he was 25 and like Stenson, who seems to have been out of touch with his greatness ever since winning the Open, I can't see him winning this week.
In wettish, but not especially windy weather on a shortish par 72 links course of 7,055 yards that will be as new to them as it is to almost every other golfer in the field, they are each going to have to up their ante if they hope to become serious contender again in a field packed with form men who will be just that, Noren, Reed, Kuchar, Scott, Kaymer, Dufner, Tyrell Hatton and Branden Grace to name just a few.
(AM Tuesday, July 11, 2017)
Rickie Fowler 8/1
Rory McIlroy 9/1
Henrik Stenson 16/1
Alex Noren 16/1
Patrick Reed 20/1
Matt Kuchar 20/1
Adam Scott 20/1
Branden Grace 28/1
Bernd Wiesberger 30/1
Ross Fisher 33/1
Andy Sullivan 33/1
Peter Uihlein 33/1
Rafael Cabrera-Bello 40/1
Tyrell Hatton 45/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 50/1
David Lingmerth 50/1
Byeong-Hun An 50/1
Martin Kaymer 50/1
Jason Dufner 55/1
Martin Laird 55/1.
NOTE: For all the latest odds, go to www.oddschecker.com/golf/scottish-open/winner.
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