The European Tour heads to Scotland this week for the Hero Open, an event which is being staged for a second year in a row having been created initially for the pandemic last year but which gets another slot on the rota.
Sam Horsfield won this tournament last year when it was held at the Forest of Arden track but he doesn’t return to defend the title so we are guaranteed a new champion on a different course from the one which staged the event last year.
2020 – Sam Horsfield
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. This course hosted the now defunct Scottish Championship last year so it has been used before.
The course itself is a par 72 which measures 7,230 yards so it isn’t terribly long, although with rain around Scotland in the lead up to the event, it is likely to play to somewhere near its full yardage. The fairways are quite generous here and the greens have been described as the best you’ll find in Scotland so this should be a week for aggressive sorts as long as they stay out of the bunkers. Keep the low scoring links specialists on side this week.
With a WGC going on over in America and with us being in the part of the golfing calendar where things are a little quiet around that, we don’t have the greatest field we’ve ever seen this week but we certainly don’t have a bad one either. There might be no defending champion this week but we have the man who won here last year in Adrian Otaegui. He and Andy Sullivan might set the standard heading into the week.
There are a few other notables in the field including the man who won in Germany not so long ago in Marcus Armitage, Jordan Smith who will be wondering how he hasn’t won recently, Ryan Fox who likes a links track and Eddie Pepperell for whom the same can be said. The home charge will be led by Richie Ramsay with others who catch the eye including Matthew Southgate, Daniel van Tonder and Marcel Siem who was a winner on the Challenge Tour recently.
Not for the first time recently, Andy Sullivan is the market leader this week. He is 16/1 to land the title this week. He was one of the favourites to win in Northern Ireland last week but failed to make it into the final round and in truth continues to flatter to deceive as a favourite. He did win twice last year which will encourage him but he doesn’t have a huge amount of links form to his name and based on all that I think he’s plenty short enough even if he is the man with the most wins in the field.
We have a quartet of players at 25/1 in the betting. They are the man who won here last year in Adrian Otaegui, the winner in Germany earlier in the campaign in Marcus Armitage, the 54 hole leader last week in Jordan Smith and the Japanese star Masahiro Kawamura. The way Smith failed to get the job done last week does nothing to inspire me into backing him here. Kawamura is more interesting. He comes in here off the back of a fifth place in Wales and third in Northern Ireland last week and was seventh in the Scandinavian Mixed which could be an event that correlates with this one. The first two named have obvious chances.
Ryan Fox is the only other player who is shorter than 30/1 in this field. He is 28/1 and has plenty of links form which will elevate him up in the shortlists of many. One question mark would be that he doesn’t win as much as I would like him to with the tools he has at his disposal but a liking for links golf is a massive advantage this week. He hasn’t registered a top 40 in his last four events though and has flown in from Japan for this tournament which can’t be ideal preparation.
I backed Adrian Otaegui to win around here last year and he did exactly that and I see no reason why he can’t go in again. The key statistic last year was strokes gained on approach. The first two home ranked in the top three for that and there aren’t many better aggressive iron players than the Spaniard, who showed his liking for exposed courses further when he finished second in the Scandinavian Mixed earlier in the campaign. He didn’t hole anything there but usually he is very handy with the short stick and we know he likes these greens after he won here last year. I think he’s a leading runner to win around here again.
Matthew Southgate has never hidden his liking for links tracks so it makes sense to get with him in a field this weak this week. He almost won in Germany earlier in the year and he was second in the Dunhill Links not far from here a couple of years ago. There is plenty of other links form on Southgate’s resume and while the lack of a win is a concern, this is a week where you either like the style of golf or you don’t and if you do you have a significant advantage. I’ll pay to see if he can convert that advantage into the elusive victory here.
There isn’t a huge amount I like deep down the market. Bookmakers have cottoned on to links form and recent form which makes finding outsiders to support a little trickier. I do like a couple at 66/1 though with the first of them being Oliver Farr. He was in the top 10 for strokes gained on approach in the Scandinavian Mixed earlier in the year but he holed absolutely nothing. Since then he has gained strokes on the field with the putter in every event he has played and comes in here off the back of a pair of top 15 finishes in the last two weeks. He was ninth here last year after opening with a 73. With a better start I expect him to go much stronger here.
Garrick Porteous was fourth here last year and the South African has the tee to green game to get himself in the mix once again. He was in the top 15 in Northern Ireland last week which represented a return to form and having gone well around here last year, should he find some form on the greens once again then he can be a contender. South Africans like links golf and Porteous has the power to take this course on when it gets soft. I think he is a dangerous outsider here.
Back A.Otaegui to win Hero Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back M.Southgate to win Hero Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 36.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back O.Farr to win Hero Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-6)
Back G.Porteous to win Hero Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)