There has been a lot of change to the traditional golfing calendar this year but one tournament which hasn’t deviated from its regular spot before The Open is the Scottish Open, and it is that which takes place this week.
Brandon Stone shocked everyone to come from the clouds to win this tournament 12 months ago and he will look to defend his title. As ever a brilliant field has been assembled to hone their game ahead of next week.
2018 – Brandon Stone
2017 – Rafael Cabrera Bello
2016 – Alex Noren
2015 – Rickie Fowler
2014 – Justin Rose
2013 – Phil Mickelson
2012 – Jeev Milkha Singh
2011 – Luke Donald
2010 – Edoardo Molinari
2009 – Martin Kaymer
The tournament has moved on once again and this year it is The Renaissance Club in North Berwick which stages the event. There has been a desire to play this tournament on a links course to act as the ideal preparation for next week and that is very much the case. This is a true links course which requires shot shaping and imagination.
The course is a par 71 which measures 7,136 yards and like all courses of this kind its difficulty is determined by the wind and weather. It has to be said that the weather is mixed this week at best which should make for a tough set up. As ever on links tracks keeping out of the bunkers is the primary route to scoring low.
This is generally the tournament where the Americans head over and play to prepare for next week and three leading lights from the PGA Tour have done exactly that in the form of former champion Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas, however it is Rory McIlroy who will receive much of the attention particularly as he has chosen this week to prepare for The Open rather than last week.
There are plenty of other European stars in the field this week with Henrik Stenson coming over to play as well as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Martin Kaymer and Eddie Pepperell. This is a big week for the German as he needs to go well to make it into The Open. Other notables in the field include Matt Wallace, Tyrrell Hatton and Rafael Cabrera Bello as well as Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
Rory McIlroy is the favourite to win the tournament this week. He is a 13/2 shot to land glory but the obvious question is how desperate he will be to win here and how much he is using the event to fine tune his game for Portrush next week. You would have to think that the latter is the more likely option. That doesn’t mean he can’t win of course but I’d have preferred him to have had a links spin if I was going to get involved here I have to say.
Rickie Fowler has a decent links pedigree and he is the 14/1 second favourite to win this title for the second time. Whether his game is in the sort of order he wants it to be in to win what is a prestigious title in its own right I’m not so sure but we do at least know the answer to the question about him wanting to win. Having won here before we know he isn’t just in this part of the world to hit a few balls ahead of next week.
The American pair of Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas come third in the betting at 18/1. Kuchar has a very strong links pedigree and a decent enough record in this tournament in his own right. Thomas doesn’t quite have such a stature on these tracks so credit to him for coming over and getting a run in. Kuchar could be a genuine contender here but this is a pretty strong field and he might just be on the skinny side.
Former Open champion Henrik Stenson comes next in the outright market at 20/1. The Swede is another one who is accustomed to playing well in this sphere although again if I’m getting involved at this price I would have wanted him to have had a previous jaunt. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stenson wins this week but I think there are others who have a lot more going for them at better prices.
Although it is a good field with a lot of star names there is only one main bet which really takes my fancy and it is the man who I was on last week in Eddie Pepperell. He might well have needed the run having been off for a while so we should be extremely encouraged by what we saw and if this is a bit more of a grind that should suit him down to the ground.
Pepperell was eighth in greens hit in Ireland last week and while he would like to hole one or two more putts having been out for so long it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he has a better feel on the greens where than he did there. Pepperell was sixth in The Open at Carnoustie last year and there are similarities between there and this place and he was second here last year. He was second in the British Masters on a links track too so sticking with him should be a profitable strategy.
This tournament had a huge priced winner last year and we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of that happening again this year too so with that in mind I’ll take a punt on four at much bigger prices. Paul Waring finished seventh in Ireland and is just rounding himself into a bit of form. His iron play was impressive enough last week so if he can just tighten things up on the greens then he shouldn’t be too far away here. Waring has good form on links and windy tracks over the last 18 months. He won the Nordea Masters last year, was T11 in Sicily in 2018 too and was sixth in the British Masters earlier in the year. He’s in good form and looks overpriced to me.
I took Justin Harding last week and he played himself out of contention before he had reached the turn on the first day but he was a statistical pick then and I don’t think the stats have gone that much against him to ensure he isn’t worth another go, particularly when you consider he could take inspiration from a South African colleague winning this event last year. Everything we said about Harding last week applies here so if he can get off to a better start we’re hopeful of a decent run.
Edoardo Molinari is another who has a decent pedigree when the wind blows. Although it wasn’t round here or a links course, he has won in Scotland before when he took this title at Loch Lomond back in 2010 He was in the top 10 last year having previously finished second in the Irish Open prior to that and he was ninth in Sicily last term. The Italian goes to Scotland with a pair of top 10s in his last three tournaments and there was nothing wrong with a T26 at Valderrama in between. Molinari made 21 birdies last week so if he can keep scoring like that and reduce the errors he should be right there as he chases a place at Portrush next week.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano finished last week with a 64 which was the low round of the day on Sunday. Admittedly, he was down the field and sort of free rolling but such a round of golf is the sort which makes me take notice. A little more research on him shows that he was the third best in the field in putts per GIR and the best of those who made the cut for putts per round so around the greens he is doing good thing. The Spaniard is inside the top 20 in one putts this season so he is rolling the rock well. If he can find a solidity in his long game, which he showed he had when he really needed it at Valderrama last year, he could outrun a huge price.
Back E.Pepperell to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 29.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back E.Molinari to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)
Back G.Fernandez-Castano to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 251.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back P.Waring to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back J.Harding to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)