PGA Tour best bets: Genesis Scottish Open

July 6, 2022 08:04 AM
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J.T. Poston became just the third player (Scott Hoch, 1980; David Frost, 1992) to go wire-to-wire at the John Deere Classic with a winning score of 21-under 263. Poston not only posted his second career PGA Tour victory (2019 Wyndham Championship) but also provided this column its seventh outright PGA Tour winner (10th overall) in 2022 at a price of 55-1. He defeated Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Emiliano Grillo by three strokes. Poston led the field for Greens In Regulation (tied with Grillo and Denny McCarthy; 63/72 GIR; 87.5%). The top three at the John Deere — Poston, Bezuidenhout and Grillo — also earned spots in next week's Open Championship at St. Andrews. 

Before we get to the final major of 2022, most of the world's best players will tee it up this week at the Genesis Scottish Open. In fact, 14 of the OWGR Top 15 will be playing this week (World No. 2 Rory McIlroy is the lone exception).

World No. 1 and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler (12-1), three weeks removed from a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, is one of several players at the top of this stacked field that made his debut appearance in this event last year. He finished 12th but shot the low round of the tournament with a 63 in the second round. Jon Rahm, the World No. 3, finished seventh here last year. He is also priced at 12-1 along with World No. 5 and PGA Champion Justin Thomas, who has two Top 10 finishes in two appearances (2019, 2021) here at Renaissance. Xander Schauffele (20-1), who finished 10th here last year, got a bit of a monkey off his back by winning a stroke-play event for the first time in three-and-a-half years at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago. Matt Fitzpatrick (22-1) won his first major three weeks ago at the U.S. Open and was the co-runner up (along with Thomas Detry) to Min Woo Lee (125-1) here last year.

Patrick Cantlay (25-1) will try to turn the page after a disastrous 6-over 76 in the final round two weeks ago at the Travelers when he was in the final pairing with Schauffele. Like Cantlay, Cameron Smith (28-1) also makes his debut appearance in this event and comes in off some disappointing performances over the last several weeks. Collin Morikawa (25-1) finished a disappointing 71st here on debut last year and seemed to struggle in his first time on a links-style golf course. However, those struggles lasted approximately one week as he became the Champion Golfer of the Year seven days later in the Open Championship at Royal St. George's. Will Zalatoris (28-1) has limited experience playing in Europe but has finished sixth or better in six of his last eight events, including the last two majors, as he still seeks his first PGA Tour win. Sam Burns (30-1) finished 18th here last year and was part of a group including Scheffler and Jordan Spieth (30-1) that came over a week early to play some practice rounds around the U.K. to get used to the weather and links-style golf. 

The Event​

The Genesis Scottish Open has been a signature event on the DP World Tour since 1986. It is part of the tour’s five-event Rolex Series. This year, the tournament becomes a co-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour. With a new sponsor in Genesis and the partnership with the PGA Tour, the purse now increases to $8 million.

The Scottish Open began in 1972 as part of the inaugural European Tour season but ceased to exist from 1974-1985. In 1986, the tournament returned and has been a mainstay on the schedule, rotating around many of the great courses in Scotland. Previous winners include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Ian Woosnam, Justin Rose, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Retief Goosen and Tom Lehman. 

Aside from the prestige of winning this event and the competitive preparation on a links-style course the week preceding the Open, the top three finishers here that are not already qualified earn spots into next week's Open Championship. 

The Course 

The Renaissance Golf Club will play host for a fourth consecutive year. The course is in North Berwick, Scotland, which is located about 20 miles east of Edinburgh. Renaissance was designed in 2008 by American Tom Doak and the course is located next to Muirfield, which is a regular track on the Open rotation. It is a modern links course that plays 7,293 as a Par 71, with four Par 5s, five Par 3s and nine Par 4s. 

Despite sitting on Scotland’s “Golf Coast” in the stretch of land between Muirfield and Archerfield Links, the Renaissance Club isn’t a historic links; it was manufactured from an old pine forest and is considered by purists as a more links-like track. It is more of a hybrid of parklands, heathlands and links. Only four holes are by the North Sea coastline at Renaissance, which has undulating terrain, thick rough and numerous wooded areas. The links-style qualities it does have include firm turf (Morikawa mentioned how firm it was last year and how he had difficulty getting irons through his shots), deep pot bunkers and greens that encourage the use of the ground game.

The track plays relatively easy in calmer wind. The 2020 Scottish Open was played in the fall due to COVID-19 and featured rainy and windy conditions that led to the tournament playing about two strokes more difficult than the 2019 and 2021 versions. ​

The fairways are firm and fast and exclusively red fescue. The rough, also fescue, can measure anywhere from 3-5 inches. The large greens (7,000 square feet, 10th largest on the PGA Tour) are fescue-based. The greens will roll at only 10 on the stimpmeter, so they will be slower than most of the players in this field have seen all season. The greens are cut at a minimum of 5 millimeters high. Most PGA Tour greens are typically cut to around 2.5 millimeters.

The Par 4s start and finish quite strong with the first two and last two measuring over 460 yards — three of them are 480+ and are amongst the toughest holes on the course. The five in between are scoreable, with four shorter than 450 yards, including the drivable 338-yard fifth hole.

The Par 3s are a mix, with the two shorter ones, Nos. 6 and 14, yielding lots of birdies, while the three at 200+ yards (Nos. 9, 12 and 17) are all challenging.

Comparable courses overseas include Royal Birkdale, Royal Portrush, Royal St. George's, Royal Troon and St. Andrews. 

Comparable courses stateside include Memorial Park, Chambers Bay, Kiawah Island (Ocean Course), Shinnecock Hills and Trinity Forest. 

Recent Winners

2021: Min Woo Lee (-18/266), Renaissance, 200-1*

2020: Aaron Rai (-11/273), Renaissance, 50-1**

2019: Bernd Wiesberger (-22/262), Renaissance, 40-1***

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

2017: Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-13/275), Dundonald 50-1****

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

2015: Rickie Fowler (-12/268), Gullane, 22-1 

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

2013: Phil Mickelson (-17/261), Castle Stuart, 22-1***** 

2012: Jeev Milkha Singh (-17/261), Castle Stuart, 100-1******

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

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

Playoff win over Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry*

Playoff win over Tommy Fleetwood**

Playoff win over Benjamin Hebert***

Playoff win over Callum Shinkwin****

Playoff win over Branden Grace*****

Playoff win over Francesco Molinari******

Weather-shortened event to 54 holes*******

Trends and Angles

Here are the Strokes Gained: Total leaders in the Scottish Opens at Renaissance from 2019-2021. Most of these players were predominantly playing on the DP World Tour at the time: 

1. Lucas Herbert 20.7

2. Thomas Detry 18.7

3. Min Woo Lee 16.4

4. Tommy Fleetwood 16.4

5. Erik Van Rooyen 16.0

6. Matt Wallace 15.7

7. Aaron Rai 13.8

8. Tyrrell Hatton 13.0

9. Robert Macintyre 11.8

10. Padraig Harrington 11.8

11. Victor Perez 11.7

12. Ryan Palmer 11.7

This week's Scottish Open has arguably the best field in its history and it’s difficult to ignore the class at the top of the odds board. Nevertheless, if you go back to tournaments held the week before a major championship, it’s rare that a top-class player wins in the event before a major (shown in parentheses): 

2022 RBC Canadian Open (U.S. Open): Rory McIlroy

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson (PGA): K.H. Lee

2022 Valero Texas Open (Masters): JJ Spaun

2021 John Deere Classic (Open Championship): Lucas Glover

2021 Palmetto Championship (U.S. Open): Garrick Higgo

2021 Byron Nelson (PGA): K.H. Lee

2021 Valero Texas Open (Masters): Jordan Spieth

2020 Houston Open (Masters): Carlos Ortiz

2020 Safeway Open (U.S. Open): Stewart Cink

2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude (PGA): Justin Thomas

2019 John Deere Classic (Open Championship): Dylan Frittelli

2019 Canadian Open (U.S. Open): Rory McIlroy

2019 Byron Nelson (PGA): Sung Kang

2019 Valero Texas Open (Masters): Corey Conners

2018 WGC-Bridgestone (PGA): Justin Thomas

2018 John Deere Classic (Open Championship): Michael Kim

2018 WGC-FedEx St. Jude (U.S. Open): Dustin Johnson

2018 Houston Open (Masters): Ian Poulter

The WGC events held before the PGA always produced a world-class winner in a limited field. McIlroy has also pulled it off twice in Canada. However, few others were considered prime contenders. Respect the class atop the board, but there is value down the board with so many highly ranked players at short odds. 

Statistical Analysis​

Strokes Gained: Approach, PGA Tour (Last 36 Rounds)

With the greens being huge and undulating, proximity to the hole and leaving an uphill putt is vital. The course favors strong iron players. Seven of the Top 15 on the leaderboard gained at least 4.6 strokes on approach last year. 

1. Will Zalatoris 37.2

2. Cameron Smith 34

3. Scottie Scheffler 30.4

4. Xander Schauffele 30.1

5. Max Homa 29.5

6. Viktor Hovland 29.1

7. Justin Thomas 28.1

8. Hideki Matsuyama 28.1

9. Luke List 27.7

10. Mito Pereira 26.4

11. Sam Burns 26.1

12. Harold Varner III 24.9

13. Collin Morikawa 24.9

14. Luke Donald 22.9

15. Matthew NeSmith 22

Strokes Gained: Approach, DP World Tour (Strokes Gained per Round)

1. Ryan Fox 1.16

2. Matt Wallace 1.04

3. Edoardo Molinari 1.00

4. Marcus Armitage 0.99

5. Victor Perez 0.93

6. Jordan Smith 0.64

7. Ashun Wu 0.64

8. Jason Scrivener 0.62

9. Maximilian Kieffer 0.61

10. Nino Bertasio 0.60

11. Nicolai Hojgaard 0.59

12. Ewen Ferguson 0.56

13. Mikko Korhonen 0.55

14. Kristoffer Broberg 0.55

15. Daniel Gavins 0.53

16. Thorbjorn Olesen 0.51

17. Sebastian Soderberg 0.50

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, PGA Tour (Last 36 Rounds)

Twelve of the top 17 players who finished 15th or better in the 2021 Scottish Open were inside the Top 60 in SG: Off-the-Tee on either the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour heading into the Scottish Open. Players must position their ball well to avoid the pot bunkers and thick rough.

1. Jon Rahm 43.7

2. Cameron Young 41.5

3. Mito Pereira 27.4

4. Will Zalatoris 26.2

5. Keith Mitchell 26.1

6. Corey Conners 25.9

7. Joaquin Niemann 25.6

8. Luke List 22.4

9. Matt Fitzpatrick 21.5

10. Justin Thomas 21.4

11. Sungjae Im 20.9

12. Hayden Buckley 20.9

13. Chris Kirk 20.4

14. Brian Harman 19.9

15. Max Homa 19.3

16. Patrick Cantlay 19.3

17. Anirban Lahiri 19.2

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, DP World Tour (Strokes Gained per Round)

1. Jordan Smith 1.05

2. Adrian Meronk 0.99

3. Wil Besseling 0.69

4. Dean Burmester 0.65

5. Padraig Harrington 0.57

6. Thriston Lawrence 0.50

7. Fabrizio Zanotti 0.47

8. Masahiro Kawamura 0.47

9. John Catlin 0.46

10. Victor Perez 0.45

11. Haotong Li 0.44

12. Ryan Fox 0.43

13. Kristoffer Broberg 0.42

14. Matthieu Pavon 0.40

Driving Distance Gained, PGA Tour (Last 36 Rounds)

You do not necessarily need to be long off the tee with the firm and fast fairways. However, windier conditions will force longer carries off the tee.

1. Wyndham Clark 22.4

2. Jon Rahm 18.4

3. Cameron Young 17.4

4. Callum Tarren 17

5. Kurt Kitayama 16.9

6. Jhonattan Vegas 16.6

7. Luke List 13

8. Justin Thomas 12.9

9. Will Zalatoris 12.3

10. Jason Kokrak 12

11. Scottie Scheffler 11.8

12. Sam Burns 11.3

13. Joaquin Niemann 11.2

Average Driving Distance, DP World Tour

1. Nicolai Hojgaard 326.73

2. Dean Burmester 325.22

3. Adri Arnaus 320.77

4. Tapio Pulkkanen 318.20

5. Rasmus Hojgaard 314.95

6. Wil Besseling 314.95

7. Antoine Rozner 314.22

8. Thomas Detry 313.76

9. Ryan Fox 313.57

10. Nino Bertasio 312.98

11. Jordan Smith 312.11

12. Daniel Gavins 311.83

13. Sami Valimaki 311.08

14. Mathieu Pavon 310.45

Three-Putt Avoidance, PGA Tour (Last 36 Rounds)

​The greens this week are some of the slowest the players will see all year and the speed is hard to judge, so there will be three-putts. 

1. Tyrrell Hatton 12.96

2. Justin Thomas 11.02

3. Cameron Smith 10.19

4. Xander Schauffele 9.42

5. Jason Kokrak 8.28

6. Lucas Herbert 7.93

7. Hideki Matsuyama 7.42

8. Mackenzie Hughes 7.15

9. Patrick Cantlay 6.79

10. Keegan Bradley 6.04

11. Rickie Fowler 5.92

12. Justin Rose 5.54

13. Alex Noren 5.54

14. Max Homa 5.41

15. Jon Rahm 5.18

16. Marc Leishman 5.04

Three-Putt Avoidance, DP World Tour (Three-Putts per Round)

1. Tyrrell Hatton 0.21

2. Alexander Bjork 0.28

3. Kiradech Aphibarnrat 0.29

4. Adrian Meronk 0.30

5. Fabrizio Zanotti 0.31

6. Thomas Detry 0.33

7. Ashun Wu 0.33

8. James Morrison 0.33

9. Andrea Pavan 0.35

10. Matt Wallace 0.38

11. Maximilian Kieffer 0.38

12. Marcus Kinhult 0.38

13. JB Hansen 0.41

14. Haotong Li 0.42

15. Jamie Donaldson 0.42

16. Jonathan Caldwell 0.43

Selections

Will Zalatoris (28-1 Circa Sports)

Zalatoris is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory and has a great chance to earn it this week, considering he has finished sixth or better in six of his last eight starts, including as a runner-up in the last two major championships. No one has been better with the irons this season than Zalatoris, as he ranks first in this field for SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds. 

Tommy Fleetwood (50-1 BetMGM)

Fleetwood finished runner-up at Renaissance two years ago to Aaron Rai. He is well-versed on links-style golf and loves it even more when the conditions can get tougher. On the PGA Tour this season, Fleetwood ranks ninth for SG: Around-the-Greens, 28th in Scrambling and 37th in SG: Putting.

Tyrrell Hatton (50-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Hatton has certainly cooled from his early 2022 form, missing two of his last three cuts with a 56th at the U.S. Open sandwiched in between. However, he finished fourth on Tuesday against some class players at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am. The putter has been the standout club this year, with the Englishman ranking fifth on the PGA Tour and second in Three-Putt Avoidance.

Lucas Herbert (60-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Herbert has finished fourth here each of the last two years and was ninth last week at the Irish Open. He was eighth and sixth for SG: Putting in those last two efforts here, so he’s more than comfortable on these slow, fescue putting surfaces.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (95-1 Boyd Sports)

Bezuidenhout played his way into next week's Open Championship at St. Andrews by finishing second (his best-ever finish on the PGA Tour) last week at the John Deere Classic. The South African gained 8.42 strokes putting last week (third in the field) and his short game is one of the world's best, so he should be able to make the adjustment to the slower greens. 

Jordan Smith (125-1 BetMGM)

Smith led the field for SG: Tee-to-Green last week at the Irish Open but settled for 24th after losing more than eight strokes with the putter. However, he has been in consistent form all season with two runner-up finishes and three other Top 10s. 

Rickie Fowler (160-1 Circa Sports)

Fowler won the Scottish Open at Gullane in 2015. He is looking to earn one of the last spots in next week's Open Championship and to gain FedEx Cup points since he sits just inside the Top 125 at No. 123. He finished fifth at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am on Tuesday. Perhaps coming over early and playing with buddies Spieth, Scheffler and Thomas may have rubbed off on him.  

​Barbasol Championship​

Adrian Meronk had been knocking at the door for his first DP World Tour victory and finally broke through at the Irish Open last week, becoming the first player from Poland to ever win on the DP World Tour. Meronk, at a price of 30-1, defeated runner-up Ryan Fox by three strokes. Meronk and Fox will both be at the Scottish Open, but many DP World Tour regulars will be stateside this week at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky. Both the Scottish Open and Barbasol are co-sanctioned PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. PGA Tour regulars are hoping to earn enough FedEx Cup points to earn their PGA Tour cards and DP World Tour players have an opportunity to do the same by winning this week. 

There is not a clear favorite at the Barbasol Championship but the shortest price in the market belongs to a player that currently has no status on any tour. Chris Gotterup (20-1) just turned professional four weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open after finishing fifth at the NCAA Championship representing the University of Oklahoma. He made the cut at both the U.S. Open and Travelers before finishing fourth at the John Deere Classic last week. Kevin Streelman (22-1) has not won in eight years (2014 Travelers Championship) and currently sits at No. 109 in the FedEx Cup standings. Mark Hubbard (25-1) finished 13th at the John Deere for his best PGA Tour finish of 2022, jumping him from No. 130 to No. 116 in the FedEx Cup standings (Top 125 after the Wyndham Championship next month keep their cards for next season). Adam Svensson (25-1) has made six straight cuts and a couple more likely will be enough to keep his card. Patton Kizzire (33-1), who currently sits No. 111 in the FedEx Cup, finished 16th last week for his best finish since a Top 10 in Phoenix. 

The Event

The Barbasol Championship debuted in 2015 as an alternate event to the Open Championship. The first three editions of the tournament were played at the Grand National course of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Opelika, Alabama, before moving to its present home of Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky. 

Like other alternate events, the winner of the Barbasol Championship does not earn an invitation to the Masters and point values are limited due to the weaker field. However, the winner still receives a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a trip to the PGA Championship.

Players have just five weeks to improve their positions in the FedEx Cup standings until the cutoff date at the Wyndham. 

The Course

The Champion Course at Keene Trace Golf Club has hosted this event since 2018. The track was originally designed in 1987 by Arthur Hills and got a makeover in 2016 from J. Drew Rogers. It plays as a Par 72 of 7,328 yards and is a relatively easy track, with 21 under, 23 under and 26 under winning the last three editions of this tournament. 

There is a large lake in play at the conclusion of both nines. The Bentgrass fairways are undulating but very generous and players will be hitting into large (6,000 square feet) and receptive Bentgrass greens that roll at 11 on the stimpmeter.

Hot and humid weather conditions allow the ball to fly long distances and this tournament is often played with soft turf and receptive greens. It’s a recipe for a good old-fashioned PGA Tour birdie-fest.

Recent Winners

2021: Seamus Power (-21/267); 20-1*

2020: No Tournament (COVID-19)

2019: Jim Herman (-26/262); 350-1

2018: Troy Merritt (-23/265); 50-1

​Playoff win over J.T. Poston*

Trends and Angles

The three winners of the Barbasol at Keene Trace have ranked eighth (Power,  2021), first (Herman, 2019) and fifth (Merritt, 2018) for Greens In Regulation during their winning weeks.

— The three winners of the Barbasol at Keene Trace have ranked fifth (Power, 2021), first (Herman, 2019) and third (Merritt, 2018) for Scrambling during their winning weeks. 

— All three winners of the Barbasol at Keene Trace ranked 18th or better for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 17th or better for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning weeks. 

Selections

Taylor Pendrith (30-1 DraftKings)

Pendrith is a bit of speculative play considering this is his first start after suffering a rib fracture at The Players in March. Nevertheless, he is first in this field for SG: Total, second for SG: Ball Striking, third for SG: Tee-to-Green and fourth for SG: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds. 

Lee Hodges (50-1 DraftKings)

Hodges has made four straight cuts and ranks 10th in the field for GIR over the last eight weeks. He is also 17th for SG: Approach from 125-50 yards and 20th from 150-175 yards.

Austin Cook (60-1 Circa Sports)

Cook missed eight of his first 12 cuts this year, with his best finish being 42nd. However, a four-week break following the Byron Nelson has led to much better form, recording finishes of 13th at the Canadian Open, 63rd at the Travelers Championship and 16th at the John Deere Classic last week. He finished fourth on this course in 2019. 

Austin Smotherman (65-1 DraftKings)

Smotherman has missed the cut the last two weeks after making six in a row prior. Still, he ranks first in this field for SG: Ball Striking and second for SG: Off-the-Tee over the last 24 rounds. 

Matti Schmid (80-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Schmid has been playing regularly of late on the DP World Tour. The German returns for a bit of an American home game since he played college golf at Louisville. Unlike many of the European players, he will be very used to the oppressive heat this week. He ranks eighth for SG: Off-the-Tee in what is his DP World Tour rookie season. 

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