McIlroy Heads Scottish Field Ahead of British

By Wes Reynolds  () 

The Scottish Open wears several different hats this week. It primarily serves as the last tuneup for next week’s British Open at Royal Portrush and is the last chance for those not yet qualified to get into the year’s final major (top 3 non-exempt finishers inside the Top 10).

The Scottish, like the Irish Open last week, is also one of eight Rolex Series events that offer extra prize money, plus enhanced Race to Dubai points for European Tour regulars. This week’s field has no shortage of Euro Tour regulars, plus several American exports arriving a week early across the pond.

Rory McIlroy, just a week before the British returns to his native Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, is the tournament favorite at 6/1. Rory is playing this event for the first time since 2014 due to the fact that his now-defunct foundation was a key backer of the Irish Open until last week’s event, which he skipped.

Three Americans follow him on the odds board, including 2015 event champion Rickie Fowler (14/1), 2015 event runner-up Matt Kuchar (16/1) and Justin Thomas (18/1). Henrik Stenson rounds out the top 5 at 18/1 and then a big group of Euro Tour mainstays track at 25/1, including Matt Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (2017 event winner) and Eddie Pepperell.

THE COURSE

While we have a long history of event form here, we have no course form to go on as the Renaissance Club makes its debut as host. Renaissance Club is in Dirleton, North Berwick, which is on the northern tip of Scotland and about a 40-minute drive from Edinburgh. The track will play to a par 71 of 7,136 yards this week. It was opened in 2008 and designed by an American, Tom Doak, who is part of the Pete Dye design tree but was highly influenced by Alister MacKenzie, the designer of last week’s course for the Irish Open at Lahinch.

Due to its modernity, Renaissance is more considered a “links-like” course versus a pure, traditional links. The fairways should be firm and fast and the rough will be higher than the norm due to a rainy couple of seasons in Scotland. The greens are fescue-based and similar to the ones at Castle Stuart (host of this event from 2011-2013, 2016) as well as Royal Birkdale (2017 Open Championship).

Recent History/Winners

2018: Brandon Stone (-20/260) 400/1 (Gullane)

2017: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-13/275) 50/1 (Dundonald)

2016: Alexander Noren (-14/274) 50/1 (Castle Stuart)

2015: Rickie Fowler (-12/268) 20/1 (Gullane)

2014: Justin Rose (-16/268) 14/1 (Royal Aberdeen)

2013: Phil Mickelson (-17/271) 20/1 (Castle Stuart)

2012: Jeev Milkha Singh (-17/271) 100/1 (Castle Stuart)

2011: Luke Donald (-19/197) 10/1 (Castle Stuart)

2010: Eduardo Molinari (-12/272) 70/1 (Loch Lomond)

PICKS

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (25/1) with a T-4 last week at the Irish Open was the highlight of this column last week, but no one was a match for Jon Rahm and his final round 62, a new course record at Lahinch.

Henrik Stenson 18/1

Stenson currently leads the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach with an average of 1.25 strokes per round. He also ranks 5th in Driving Accuracy at 73.12 percent. The recent form is as good as it has been all season with consecutive top 10s in Canada and at the U.S. Open. Stenson is of course a former Champion Golfer of the Year winning the Open back in 2016 at Royal Troon, so he’s more than shown his prowess in links golf.

Martin Kaymer 30/1

The two-time major winner (2010 PGA, 2014 U.S. Open) is currently the third alternate to get into next week’s Open and is in danger of missing his first major since 2007. This week is his last chance. The recent form isn’t awful with three top 10s in his past seven events (9th Irish Open, 3rd Memorial, 8th British Masters). He’s a former winner of this event (2009 Loch Lomond) and at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Kaymer knows it’s go time to make the Open and he comes in with good momentum, shooting 65 last Sunday.

Jorge Campillo 50/1

After finally breaking through for his maiden win in Morocco and coming back the following week with a third in China, Campillo missed two straight cuts at the PGA and in Denmark. He took four weeks off and has returned with a 15th at Valderrama and a seventh last week at the Irish Open, where he posted all four rounds in the 60s. He was eighth at Castle Stuart in 2016 so he has good familiarity with these fescue greens.

Gavin Green 80/1 The 25 year-old from Malaysia is mostly known in Asia and won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2017. His only appearance in a major was at last year’s Open at Carnoustie where he made the cut. Unfortunately, he is one of those on the outside looking in for Royal Portrush, but recent form shows that he could be a closer for one of the last three spots allocated this week. He has three top 10s in his past four starts, including a ninth last week in Ireland, so he’s definitely getting more acclimated to links play.

Robert MacIntyre 80/1

He’s a 22-year-old left-handed player from Oban, Scotland. This youngster has already earned a spot at Royal Portrush with back-to-back runners-up at the British Masters and in Denmark. This week he gets the spotlight as he is paired with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler for the first two rounds. “Next week (the Open) is going to be unbelievable but for me the Scottish Open is always the one I’ve wanted to win.” As for the marquee pairing with Rory and Rickie: “Well, got to be thrown in the deep end at some point, I suppose.” MacIntyre also is one of the few players that has some rounds on this course having played it in past years for Open qualifying. Young players stateside have been rising to the occasion as evident by the performances of Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa at the 3M Open last week. Perhaps it’s time for a youngster on the other side of the pond to make a big statement.

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