SCOTTISH golfers haven’t enjoyed particularly positive experiences whenever the US Open has been staged at Winged Foot in the past.

Jack White found himself handily placed just three strokes behind early pacesetter and eventual winner Bobby Jones after a level par opening round 72 when the A W Tillinghast-designed course just outside New York first hosted the tournament way back in 1929.

The former Open champion from Whitekirk in East Lothian - who was, in fairness, the grand old age of 56 at the time – slumped to an 86 and promptly withdrew.

Colin Montgomerie had an opportunity to triumph, and end his major hoodoo, as he came to the 72nd hole when the event was last held at the Mamaroneck venue in 2006.

Alas, the co-leader pushed his approach shot to the final green, chipped on to 30 feet and took three putts to close with a costly double bogey. Geoff Ogilvy pipped him by a single shot.

Yet, Sandy Scott, the Nairn amateur who will tee off in the first round of this year’s rescheduled competition on Thursday, is guaranteed, unlike his countrymen, to savour his involvement regardless of how he performs.

Scott had intended to turn professional after graduating from Texas Tech in the summer. The coronavirus outbreak in March caused him to rethink his plans. He decided to return to college in the United States for a fifth and final year due to the dearth of playing opportunities that would be available to him.

It must have been a bitter disappointment. However, it hasn’t worked out too badly. He soon discovered the top seven players in the World Amateur Golf Rankings would be handed invitations to the US Open.

A sound showing in the US Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes in Oregon last month – he qualified for the matchplay stages and then reached the last 32 – meant that he secured his berth.

“It’s an interesting dynamic that’s occurred,” said Scott. “Not being able to turn pro wasn’t hard, it just took a little bit of adaptation. But I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for Covid.”

Being handed the unexpected chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods and test himself on the challenging 7,477 yard layout is sure to be an invaluable experience for the prodigiously talented youngster ahead of his eventual switch to the paid ranks.

Not that Scott, who arrived at Winged Foot yesterday along with his college coach and caddy for the week Greg Sands to begin his preparations, will be in awe of the household names in the international field in any way. He isn’t there to get autographs or selfies.

“I’m looking forward to competing,” he said. “I’m here to compete, not to try and make the cut or to finish as the top amateur. I want to be in contention on the Sunday. I believe I’m good enough to do that.

“There is no point going in to any tournament unless you are going in to try and win it. I’m here to play against these guys, not to get star struck. It’s not going to help my performance if I’m worried about other players.”

It is quite a declaration of intent from the 21-year-old. But the way that many of his contemporaries have made the step up from the college circuit onto the PGA Tour in the last few years has given him confidence that he can acquit himself well.

Viktor Hovland, Colin Morikawa, who won the US PGA Championship last month, Scottie Scheffler and Mathew Wolff, to name just a handful, have all graduated to the multi-million dollar tour with ease and excelled.

“I have seen these guys making successful transitions to professional golf in recent seasons,” said Scott. “I look at them and think: ‘I used to compete with all these guys in tournaments on a regular basis’. I certainly don’t look at them as superior players. I have gone toe to toe with them in the past.”

The Scot feels, like those aforementioned players, he has both the game and the mentality required to enjoy a good US Open as a result of the time he has spent Stateside. “College has been great for preparing me for professional level,” he said. “I have learned a whole lot. I have made a gradual improvement technically over the years.

“But the biggest improvement has been my mindset. I accept things better than I did before. My attitude on the course is better. I wouldn’t say I was hot-headed previously, but my emotions used to get the better of me a lot of the time. I am smarter now.”

That will prove invaluable at Winged Foot next week. US Open courses are notorious for being exacting and the West Course this year is particularly brutal. After playing a practice round earlier this month, Rahm said: “It’s long, it’s narrow, it’s undulating. I don’t see any of us shooting under par.”

The prospect of playing on such a demanding track doesn’t faze Scott. In fact, he is keen to test himself on the tight fairways, thick rough and lightning-quick greens. “It will be a fun challenge,” he said. “I have got a good few courses under my belt now and have learned how to play in different conditions at college and in overseas events over the years.”

One of those foreign sorties was the European Team Championship in France back in 2016. Scott was on the winning Scottish side at Golf de Chantilly along with Bob McIntyre and Connor Syme. He is looking forward to meeting up with his friends and former team mates, who are both flourishing on the European Tour, at the US Open in the coming days.

“I had a great time playing with them when they were amateurs,” he said. “It gives me confidence to see them doing so well (McIntyre finished sixth in the Open at Royal Portrush last summer and was named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year at the end of his debut campaign) as professionals. They have both done great. It wasn’t that long ago that I was playing alongside them.”

Scott, who won two and halved one of the four matches he played for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup match against the United States at Royal Liverpool last year, will play practice rounds with McIntyre and Syme in the build-up to the first round and is sure to pick up a few invaluable pointers.

He spent several weeks hitting practice balls into a net in his back garden during lockdown and has hardly played competitively in recent months due to lockdown – a medal at Nairn, in which he shot the lowest scratch round, has been his only outing other than the US Amateur – so just completing all four rounds next week will be an achievement of sorts despite his admirable objective.

The sixth best amateur on the planet, though, can only benefit in the long run from being involved in the US Open at Winged Foot irrespective of how he fares.