The European Tour stays in Celtic climbs this week as it moves from Ireland to Scotland for the Scottish Open, one of the more prestigious events on the Tour with it being the perfect preparation for The Open and it is also the latest Rolex Series event.
Rafael Cabrera Bello won the title last year and he returns to the event to defend the crown albeit on a different course to the one he won on. A number of world stars are in the field looking to take the title from him.
2017 – Rafael Cabrera Bello
2016 – Alex Noren
2015 – Rickie Fowler
2014 – Justin Rose
2013 – Phil Mickelson
2012 – Jeev Milkha Singh
2011 – Luke Donald
2010 – Eduardo Molinari
2009 – Martin Kaymer
2008 – Graeme McDowell
Gullane Golf Club hosts the tournament this week for the first time since 2015 when Rickie Fowler came out on top. It is a traditional links course which can be tough when the weather intervenes but is able to be scored on when it doesn’t. The greens are small around here and the fairways are quite tight so accuracy is a big thing.
The biggest thing that is needed to get around this course, as with most links in fairness, is outstanding scrambling. That will be a big thing on this par 70 track which measures 7,133 yards. As ever at this time of year it is better to take those who have shown comfort on links courses.
There have been a few high profile withdrawals in the days leading up to the tournament but this is a still a really good field. Masters champion Patrick Reed probably headlines it but Gullane winner Rickie Fowler and Ryder Cup stars Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter are all here.
Last week’s champion in Ireland, Russell Knox also tees it up this week as do international stars Hideki Matsuyama and Louis Oosthuizen. Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan are all part of the English charge looking to emulate Rafael Cabrera Bello and win the title.
Rickie Fowler is arguably the defending champion this week having won the tournament the last time it was staged here in 2015. He is a 9/1 shot to regain the title and you have to think he is a leading chance but links golf can be a bit of a lottery with the wind so I’ve never been one for backing short prices. I’m still not so he’s an easy one to pass over even allowing for the fact he could come back to haunt us come the weekend.
Justin Rose is the second favourite to regain the title. He is 10/1 to win on his return to Scotland but I wonder if he is here to win or to prepare for next week. We know he has been at Carnoustie getting ready for next week so he will be acclimatised to conditions but you have to look at his links record and suggest it isn’t brilliant. He’s too short for me.
Patrick Reed showed he is one of the best players in the world when he took down The Masters and he is a rare breed in that he is an American who enjoys links golf and travels well. He is 20/1 to win this week along with Tyrrell Hatton who showed his fit for the links when he coasted to the Dunhill Links title in the past. Neither should be ruled out.
Hideki Matsuyama and last week’s champion Russell Knox are 22/1 to land the title here. Matsuyama is a decent links player given his record in The Open but my gut instinct is that this won’t be his week. I wouldn’t want to rule out Russell Knox in front of his home crowd but it is tough to win once on the Tour these days let alone in successive weeks. That is a concern for me. It is 25/1 bar.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week. This course is absolutely tailor made for Matt Kuchar and after he was second here in 2015 I have to back him this week. Few players are better with a wedge in their hand than Kuchar and with the fairways fiery and the wind down for the early part of the week there are going to be a lot of wedge shots here. He is a decent putter and a good scrambler when he needs to be so at 25/1 the American looks an obvious main bet.
The other main bet I like is Alexander Bjork. The Swede is an extremely good scrambler but he is also solid enough from tee to green and when the wind blows over the weekend he isn’t going to be too far out of place. Bjork warmed up for this week with an excellent effort in Ireland last week and we know he can play exposed courses and that this one should suit him and I’m prepared to back him to go well.
I took Mikko Ilonen last week and he had a slightly questionable strategy in that he laid up on nearly every hole even when the wind was behind and a good pounding with the driver was the order of the day. Despite that he finished inside the top 20 so if he can get his game plan right this week there is no reason why he can’t be in contention. Every part of his game sets up well for this course and I’ll stick with him.
Raphael Jacquelin was in the final group in the final round here three years ago but ultimately Rickie Fowler powered through to deny him but returning to a track he has gone well on should give him some confidence, as should his top 10 finish in Ireland last week. He was hitting the ball sweetly there last week and has shown that he has a liking for links golf. That is enough to allow me to back him this week.
Joakim Lagergren also went well last week and we know from when he won the Rocco Forte Open that he can go well on links layouts. He has proven that in the Dunhill Links in the past and in the Qatar Masters, which although not a links is an exposed course. He can shoot low when needed and is comfortable in the wind. I think he’s a massive price here to build on a good couple of weeks.
Back M.Kuchar to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back A.Bjork to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 56.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back R.Jacquelin to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back J.Lagergren to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-8)
Back M.Ilonen to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Unibet (1/5 1-6)
Back him here: