A triumphal Donald Trump teed off his Scottish visit as predictions that his freewheeling presidential campaign had finally imploded appeared premature. Indeed, Trump is gaining momentum ahead of next week's first Republican debate, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggests.

Arriving at his Turnberry golf resort in western Scotland for the first day of the Women's Open, Trump hailed the poll as he paid tribute to his campaign: "The campaign itself has been amazing. New polls just came out today, Reuters, where we're leading by a lot, we're number one in the polls and it's been, you know, an amazing tribute to a lot of people."

The poll shows Trump with his greatest support yet nationally, as nearly a quarter of Republicans surveyed said he would be their choice as the party's presidential nominee in 2016. He has opened up a double-digit lead over his closest rival, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who trails at 12%.

The billionaire real estate developer said the lead showed he represents a large proportion of US society: "I think I represent a big section. I guess the poll today had me, with16 or 17 candidates, had me at 25%, and the next person was at 12%, so that's a big difference. So we represent a very big section of the country."

Some Republicans had distanced themselves from Trump, who had made comments denouncing illegal immigrants from Mexico as rapists and criminals. When grilled by members of the British media over whether he regretted making those comments, Trump stayed firm: "Illegal immigration in the United States is a huge subject and I brought it to the fore and everybody's thanking me for it. I think that's one of the reasons... I became number one in the polls."

He also referenced another recent poll that put him ahead amongst Hispanic voters: "I'm number one in Nevada, number one in North Carolina and number one nationally. But, very importantly, I'm number one with the Hispanics, it just came out yesterday."

Trump has surged since suffering a slight downtick in the wake of his scathing comments about Senator John McCain's military service.