The traditional warm-up event for The Open is the Scottish Open and that takes place this week. This is the first of a number of events which have been co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour after the two formed an alliance to combat the threat of the LIV Golf tour.
That means that Min Woo Lee will defend the title he won last year against a stellar field, one of the biggest and best in DP World Tour history. The Australian faces 14 of the top 15 players in the world in what should be a great week of golf.
2021 – Min Woo Lee
2020 – Aaron Rai
2019 – Bernd Wiesberger
2018 – Brandon Stone
2017 – Rafa Cabrera Bello
2016 – Alex Noren
2015 – Rickie Fowler
2014 – Justin Rose
2013 – Phil Mickelson
2012 – Jeev Milkha Singh
We had gotten used to the Scottish Open moving around the country but with other events establishing themselves in Scotland it looks like the home for this one is very much becoming the Renaissance Club, a couple of miles away from Muirfield. This will be the fourth year in succession that the tournament has been staged here but unlike previous years the track will play to a par of 70 measuring 7,237 yards as opposed to a par 71 previously. The change is on the seventh hole which is now a par four playing 505 yards rather than a 561 yard par five.
This isn’t strictly a links track although three of the holes do run along the coast. It is more a links course mixed in with a bit of a parkland feel. The rough is often kept quite thick and gnarly here in keeping with what the players will find at St Andrews next week. Length is certainly no bad thing but you can run shots into these greens so it isn’t everything. A good short game is needed here though and as with any links like track you need to putt well.
The field for this tournament has been under focus for a while as it is officially the first tournament that DP World Tour players who joined the LIV tour are banned from, although three players, Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding have had their bans suspended after embarking on legal action. That story will run and run and will overshadow the event but hopefully the star talent that is here comes to the fore to dampen all that.
14 of the leading 15 players in the world rankings will tee it up in Scotland this week with Rory McIlroy the only one who isn’t. The first three major champions are all in the field in Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Matthew Fitzpatrick, while Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Will Zalatoris, Sam Burns, Cameron Smith, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth all bring an avalanche of star quality to proceedings. Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre are some of the British challengers looking to go well.
Jon Rahm is the 12/1 favourite for the tournament this week. It is a sign of how good Rahm is that last four outings of 1-48-10-12 is considered poor form from him. That is the level he has set in the past though and having won the Irish Open and shown a liking for links golf he is probably the one to beat here. He was seventh in this tournament last year and doesn’t come here off the back of winning the US Open and the extra attention that brings. He’s a skinny price in a field this good but it would be no surprise if he wins.
The Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is a 12/1 joint favourite along with Rahm. Scheffler has won nearly every month this year and is having a great campaign but there have been one or two signs recently that he has just come off his very best form. He let winning positions slip at Colonial and the US Open which would be a negative but the fact he is in so many winning spots is a positive. He was T12 here last year having started with an over par round so he’s more than capable of winning here.
Justin Thomas has already won a major this season and he prepares for a tilt at another next week with a spin in this tournament. Thomas is 14/1 to walk off with the title. He has two top 10s here in the two visits to this tournament so we know he can handle the track. If there is a concern it would be that he pulled out of the Travelers Championship citing that he needed to rest an injury so if he wasn’t practicing in that time then he might be found out here.
Xander Schauffele won the Travelers and along with the US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick he is 20/1 to win here. Schauffele was T10 here last year with four very consistent rounds and hit the ball like a dream from tee to green at River Highlands but his short game lost ground on the field that week and he can’t afford to do that here. This will be the first time Fitzpatrick has played since he won the US Open so he might need some time to adjust to his new status in the game. He was second here last year.
It is a pair of Australians and an American for me as far as main bets go this week. The first of those is the American in the form of Xander Schauffele who after a very indifferent first half of the season has come alive in the last couple of months or so. It all began when he won the Zurich Classic alongside his pal Patrick Cantlay and then he finished fifth in the Byron Nelson Championship. After solid, if unspectacular, outings at the USPGA Championship and the US Open along with The Memorial, he won the Travellers Championship last time out. He warmed up for this week by beating a stacked field at the JP McManus pro-am earlier this week and was T10 in his only outing here. Schauffele always drives the ball brilliantly but the confidence he has seems to have sorted his short game out. He’s a standout chance here.
I’ve been on copious times this season in Cameron Smith, who if he has his best game with him here could be a real danger. He is a sneaky long driver of the ball and while that driver can sometimes go a bit wayward there isn’t too much in the way of significant trouble off the tee. We know Smith has a brilliant short game and when he is on it he can match anyone on the greens. Smith comes from Australia where the conditions aren’t too dissimilar to the firm and fast track he can expect this week and as long as he can compete on the greens then I expect him to be right there.
The other player I like this week is Lucas Herbert. He is a similar profile to Smith in that he gets it out there off the tee and he has a brilliant short game and a good grasp on the greens. Herbert put up a decent defence of his title in Ireland last week in horrible conditions and in these much more comfortable conditions he should be able to build up a head of steam and go well. We know Herbert can handle what this course offers as he has been fourth here in the last two years in completely different conditions on both occasions. He has won on the PGA Tour since the last time here and was T13 at the USPGA Championship so he can live at this level. He’s my third main bet here.
I’ll take three outsiders as well with the first of those being Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who flew home at the John Deere Classic last week to finish in second place. That tells us that he is hitting the ball well and in these calm conditions he should be dangerous. The South African monster tee to green golf, particularly into the greens but he has been putting very nicely over the last month or so. He gained eight strokes on the field with the putter at the Byron Nelson and eight more last week. The weakness in his game in that time has been around the greens but I’m not massively concerned by that because he doesn’t miss many. He should go very well here.
Victor Perez is never far from my radar when we come to links like courses and with the wind expected to be down this week I expect the Frenchman to go very well here. He showed he enjoys golf in what was his new homeland when he won the Dunhill Links and confirmed his liking for links golf when he won the Dutch Open last month. He then finished third on the tough Green Eagles course at the European Open so the Frenchman looks back to his best. Perez has put up a couple of decent efforts here and although he wasn’t really a factor last year his form was nothing like it is now. He shouldn’t be too far away in these conditions.
Matt Kuchar is another who loves links conditions and the fact the course is likely to play fast and firm this week should really help him given that he isn’t the longest in the field. While I think it is fair to say that Kuchar is probably past his best, he still has three top 10s on the PGA Tour this season and another top 15 on top of that. One thing which hasn’t deserted him is his short game and that will certainly benefit him here. He is now at the stage where most of the PGA Tour courses are too long for him but this one won’t be in these conditions. He has only played here once which was in 2019 when he finished T20, opening with a 63. He has all the tools needed to go well here.
Back X.Schauffele to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Smith to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back L.Herbert to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Beuidenhout to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back V.Perez to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-10)
Back M.Kuchar to win Scottish Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-10)
Back them here: