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Scottish Open Tips: Four bets for this week's Rolex Series event

Scottish Open Tips: Tommy Fleetwood features
Scottish Open Tips: Tommy Fleetwood features

As excitement builds for the final major of the year, with the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, many of the world’s best players first take a trip to Scotland for the Scottish Open. In what is sure to be an excellent precursor to the big one next week. 

Four of the world’s top five players will tee it up at The Renaissance Club, with new world number one and recent US Open champion, Jon Rahm joined by the American trio of Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele. Rory Mcilroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Scottie Scheffler are other notables in this world class field.

Located in North Berwick on the East coast of Scotland, The Renaissance Club is a 7293 yard par 71, designed by renowned architect, Tom Doak. Made up of four par 5s, a tricky set of nine par 4s and five par 3s.

It would be best described as a modern links course. Very undulating, particularly on and around the greens, with some thickish rough aside the generous fairways and as you’d expect, plenty of well placed bunkers. The course will be set up to play firm and fast but with a lot of rain in the forecast before the start of the event, they may not get the intended conditions. 

The Renaissance Club has played host to the event for the last two years, both with contrasting conditions. Benign conditions in 2019 meant the course played very easy, shown by Bernd Wiesberger winning with a score of -22. In comparison to last year’s event, where the course had been changed and sped up, combined with some brutally strong winds. It made for a much tougher test with English duo, Aaron Rai and Tommy Fleetwood fighting out a playoff after shooting -11, Rai eventually coming out on top.

Events played on links courses such as The Open, previous Scottish Opens, the Alfred Dunhill Links and some Irish Opens should provide the best form guide for this week. There is something different about links golf and players typically carry over links form.

With the aforementioned rain and relatively moderate winds currently predicted, I expect the course to be tricky but not as difficult as last year and may be closer to the 2019 renewal in terms of score. Though as with most weeks, weather forecasts should be taken with a pinch of salt so far in advance of the event and it’s entirely possible, due to it being on the coast, that stronger winds may yet arrive.

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Scottish Open Tips

Tyrrell Hatton E/W (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-07-05 16:40 Odds subject to change.

Jon Rahm is predictably at the top of the market after his US Open win and reaching world #1, also showing a liking for links courses with his two wins in the Irish Open. He’s undoubtedly the one to beat this week, though at single figures is left alone. He’s followed by in form Xander Schauffele and precision iron player Collin Morikawa. With Rory Mcilroy and Justin Thomas next in the betting but my first pick is the man who follows them, Tyrrell Hatton.

Tyrrell returns to the European Tour for the first time since his 6th place finish at the Saudi International in February. He’s had a solid run in the US since then, bagging a few top 25s, including a 2nd place finish at the Palmetto Championship 4 weeks ago, though he did miss the cut at the US Open last time out. 

I’m not too concerned about that, as he’s bounced back to win before after major disappointment. Most recently when he won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year, which was following on from a missed cut in the US Open. That continued a superb record for Hatton when returning to Europe, where he’s won three of his last seven starts and hasn’t missed a cut.

He’s been hitting the ball wonderfully recently but has undoubtedly been suffering on the greens, though still ranks 34th on the PGA Tour this year in putting, showing the quality he typically has in that respect when he’s firing. He’s also the 4th best iron player over there and 42nd around the green, further enhancing his suitability for this week’s test.

He was 14th here in the 2019 edition and has an excellent record in Scotland in general. Twice winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, as well as being a runner-up in that event and the Scottish Open. Also recording two top 6s in The Open Championship. He’s a proven winner and should relish the chance to perform here, regardless of the conditions.

Golf tips
Tommy Fleetwood E/W (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-07-05 16:40 Odds subject to change.

Like Hatton, Fleetwood hasn’t teed it up on the European Tour since February in Saudi. He’s been a little out of sorts this year but there was enough promise last week in that 17th place finish in Ireland that suggest the return to more familiar shores may bring about further improvement in form.

The usually superb ball-striker has struggled with the long game for the most part this year and it’s actually the short game, particularly around the greens, where he ranks 5th on the PGA Tour, that has been the basis of his better performances. Though he didn’t hit the ball amazingly well last week, he hit it better than he has been doing and continued his excellent form with the short game.

He’d be one of the more comfortable links performers in this field, shown by an excellent set of results which includes being 2nd here last year, 2nd in The Open Championship in 2019 and twice being runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill Links. This is no surprise when you look at where he grew up in Southport. A region of the UK awash with links courses, including Hillside, where he finished 8th in the 2019 British Masters.

He’s another who just excels when he returns home and you have to go back to 2018 to find the last time he missed a cut on the European Tour. I expect him to continue that run and build on that performance in Ireland last week. If the weather gets tough, he’ll relish those conditions more than almost anyone else.

Kalle Samooja E/W (10 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-07-05 16:45 Odds subject to change.

There were a few at 100+ I liked. Jason Scrivener is in excellent form but I was put off by his record here and lack of form at similar courses, Calum Hill will feel right at home and has been playing excellently all year and Zander Lombard has a solid set of stats for this event and has twice finished top 10 on links courses in the Irish Open. Leaving them out was not an easy decision but the longshot selection this week is a man who’s finished top 20 at this course both times the event has been staged here, Finland’s Kalle Samooja.

What is really noticeable about Samooja’s record here is that on both occasions he came into the event in really poor form. He’d missed five cuts on the spin before finishing 20th here in 2019 and last year came into the event off a run of 65-MC-MC-MC before an excellent 9th place finish. Showing a clear liking for the course.

This is in stark contrast to this year, as the Finn has been in excellent form. He’s recorded three top 20s in his last six events, including finishes of 9th and 3rd. He missed the cut in Ireland last week but only missed by one after starting well.

His record here shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as players from Nordic countries typically feel right at home playing in the UK & Ireland, as the conditions and courses are very similar to what they’d find back home. 

He’s an excellent ball-striker, ranking 29th in approach play and 40th off the tee, as well as being a quality putter, where he ranks 12th. He is capable of going low around this course if it plays easy and hopefully he can keep up his excellent record at the course this week.

Branden Grace E/W (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-07-05 16:45 Odds subject to change.

There’s a lot to like in this quality field and it was really tough to narrow it down to the four selections I have. Lucas Herbert won in Ireland last week and was 4th here last year, young Italian, Guido Migliozzi is on fire at the moment and unlucky not to win an event. He recently finished 4th at the US Open and could’ve easily been amongst the selections but instead I’ll finish off the week with another player with a proven track record at this level and in these type of events with South African, Branden Grace.

After a really tough 2020, the classy South African bounced back to form with a win in the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour at the end of February. He maintained some solid form afterwards but once again has found another level recently. First finishing 4th at the Memorial Tournament a month ago, before an excellent 7th place in the US Open on his last start.

Though the stats for the year don’t currently reflect it, due to his poor form late last year and early this, at his best he’s a superb iron player with a quality short game and has started to get that back in recent starts. He was 4th in approach play in the US Open and 5th around the greens. If he’d putted better he’d have certainly given Jon Rahm something to think about. This was following on from him being 9th in approach and 11th around the greens at Memorial. He also putted excellently that week, ranking 5th.

A player with a proven record in similar events. He won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012, as well as finishing 2nd in the Scottish Open in 2013. He’s in great form and should pose a real threat if he can transfer that quality play over from the US.

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