After a nip down to England for the flagship event of the season, the European Tour is back in Scotland this week for another tournament created to see us through Covid impacted times as the Scottish Championship is played out at St Andrews.
Although the countdown to The Masters is on and the PGA Tour have a couple of big events this week and next, a decent enough field has been attracted to the Scottish links for what should be yet another good week of golf on the European Tour.
We might be at St Andrews this week but we are not at the famous Old Course. Instead we are at the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews, a few miles away from the stage for The Open and the Dunhill Links Championship. One thing that is no different between the two tracks is they are both links courses so we are looking for players with a decent links record, although with a relatively quiet forecast this week we are after aggressive golfers.
The course itself is a par 72 which measures 7,230 yards so it isn’t terribly long although at a damp time of the year it is likely to play to somewhere near its full yardage. The fairways are said to be quite generous here and the greens have been described as the best you’ll find in Scotland so this should be a course set up for aggressive sorts as long as they stay out of the bunkers. Keep the low scoring links specialists of side this week.
Considering we are straight off a couple of Rolex Series events and only four weeks from Augusta it has to be said that a decent enough field has been put together for this tournament particularly with all the restrictions that are in place and everything. Two Englishmen headline the field in Lee Westwood and Matt Wallace but the likes of Eddie Pepperell and the home star Robert MacIntyre will be looking to get their hands on silverware as well.
There are plenty of recent winners with a tee time this week too including the man who won in Scotland just a fortnight ago in Aaron Rai. UK Swing winners Sam Horsfield and Renato Paratore are both in the field this week as is the winner of the first tournament back from lockdown Marc Warren. Gavin Green, Brandon Stone and Justin Harding offer up an international contingent in the field this week to make up what should be a good week of golf.
Matt Wallace is a 12/1 favourite to land the tournament this week. I wouldn’t necessarily put anyone off that although there have been bouts of iffy play with the putter from him recently and I’m not sure the winner is going to have a cold flat stick this week. He isn’t just here for a jolly up though so he must be coming to end a bit of a drought albeit one which involves a series of events in America where his game is just getting to grips with the test. Either way his putting problems make me swerve him.
Lee Westwood and Eddie Pepperell come next in the betting at 14/1. I’ll expand on Pepperell in a short while but while Westwood is carrying plenty of top 20 form into this tournament with him he hasn’t really contended in any of those and one of the reasons for that is he hasn’t been hitting too many irons close enough to the hole. He would probably have wanted the weather to be a bit trickier in order to contend this week.
Aaron Rai is 16/1 to win the tournament and successive Scottish wins would be quite something but given that he was second in Ireland prior to his victory at Renaissance there is no doubting his good form even allowing for a struggle last week. That is only natural after a win. He beat a much better field in the Scottish Open than he is up against here so there is a case to be made that he’s a good thing at 16/1 but I refuse to believe that his putter is going to continue to play ball for much longer. He generally isn’t a great putter historically.
Robert MacIntyre comes into another home tournament as an 18/1 shot to win the title. You know he’ll relish the conditions but he has a relatively new caddy on the bag and I think I heard either him or someone say about him that he is making adjustments to his swing which is never something I’m fond of if I’m lining up a decent wager, which it would have to be to profit at this price. Given his familiarity with conditions and things it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he comes in but I’m not convinced the price reflects his chances.
I’m all over Eddie Pepperell this week. I have had him in mind for this tournament ever since the first round of the BMW PGA Championship last week. I then proceeded to watch him throughout the coverage at Wentworth and he putted brilliantly which is a huge thing this week because Pepperell is a very smart golfer and won’t take on shots that aren’t there or that could land him in trouble in the bunkers and things like that. The real reason to like him of course is the fact that he is one of the best players of links courses on the Tour. His record in Ireland, Scotland and The Open stands up to anything especially in this field and it is no surprise that one of his wins came in Qatar at what you’d describe as an inland links. Pepperell is my idea of the winner this week.
I also like a home man but not the favoured home man, instead I’m going to go with the in form Marc Warren, a player who won in Austria straight after lockdown and had a chance to post a decent score on the Sunday in the Scottish Open a couple of weeks ago. Warren is an aggressive player who when he is in form is a very good putter and that is so much of the job this week. We know that Warren won’t be hampered by conditions, and to be in with a chance of winning at Renaissance after a horrendous Saturday weather wise, conditions which aren’t currently forecast for this week, shows that he can handle anything. He is a big price this week and makes up my second bet.
I’ll have a go at three other outsiders who are all aggressive players and who all have fair form on links courses or in this part of the world with the first of those being Adrian Otaegui. You wouldn’t expect the Spaniard to come into the equation in a links tournament but he has a number of top 20s in the Irish Open and Scottish Open in much better fields than this so he looks to be worth a chance here. Otaegui went really in one of the low scoring UK Swing events which makes me think he can be a contender here.
Callum Shinkwin seems to enjoy this part of the world. His record in the Scottish Open reads 8-2-MC-30 and he has a top 20 finish in the Irish Open and a -11 total that was only good enough for a T30 finish in that event. Shinkwin missed the cut last week but he does have a top 10 since lockdown having finished T8 in the Wales Open and T11 in the horrendous conditions the week before that. If that isn’t enough he was T10 in the Dunhill Links last year so links or exposed golf seems to bring out the best in his game. Most of that form was in better fields than this so he has to have a more than fair chance this week.
Finally I’ll have a stab in the dark at one of the better putters on the European Tour in Jamie Donaldson, a player who has good memories of Scotland from his Ryder Cup appearance in 2014 Donaldson was T10 at Valderrama recently so we know he is hitting the ball well and having not got into either of the Rolex Series events he will be eager to make up for lost time here. Donaldson is a former winner of the Irish Open and another bunch of top 10 finishes in events like the Irish Open, Scottish Open and Dunhill Links, all form that is relevant this week. He picked up a couple of top 15 finishes in the UK Swing so he’s in decent nick and can outrun his price.
Back E.Pepperell to win Scottish Championship (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 15.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
WON – Back A.Otaegui to win Scottish Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back them here:
Back M.Warren to win Scottish Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back J.Donaldson to win Scottish Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back them here:
Back C.Shinkwin to win Scottish Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-6)