Byrne set for Castle

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Banchory’s James Byrne will be up against some of the biggest names in golf at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which starts today (Thursday).

The 23-year-old has spent the first of this season on the Asian Tour but returns to Scotland to play at Castle Stuart alongside the likes of defending champion Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.

Byrne, who turned professional after helping Great Britain and Ireland lift the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen last September, says the change has been a steep learning curve.

“Playing in Asia has been a real eye-opener for me and it has been great in terms of my development,” Byrne said.

“I knew it was going to difficult. The standard of the Asian Tour is so high, but I think I might have underestimated just how tough it would be.

“But it is great to be playing in Scotland. Out in Asia it is the heat and humidity which are tough - back here it is the wind and rain we need to deal with.

“I certainly won’t moan about the heat when I get back out there.”

Byrne finished 24th at the Johnnie Walker championship at Gleneagles while still an amateur last August and 45th at the Dunhill Links championship in his first event after turning pro.

He said: “It was great to play in those events as it gave me experience of playing in front of big crowds and of all the other stuff like dealing with the press and playing in really strong fields.

“All of these things play a part in helping you improve as a player.”

Byrne played a practice round at the Highland course a few weeks ago so he knows what challenges await him.

He said: “It was the first time I had played there and I was really impressed.

“It’s a fantastic set-up and it was in great condition. It is going to be a great test.”