SCOTTISH OPEN: As one of the eight Rolex Series events and a tournament that always draws several big-name international players who don’t ordinarily compete on the European Tour, the Scottish Open isn’t your typical pre-major “warm-up.” It’s become a big-time event in its own right, and though fans and players alike will spend this week with one eye cocked towards Portrush, site of next week’s Open Championship, I expect an exciting sequel to last week’s intensely interesting Irish Open.
This tournament is now the second leg of a three-week stretch of championship links golf, and like last week at Lahinch, this week’s venue– the Renaissance Club in North Berwick– is somewhat of a hidden gem that isn’t particularly well-known worldwide. Also, unlike many links courses in the UK and Ireland, this one is relatively new, as it was designed by contemporary architect Tom Doak and opened in 2008. It was the site of the Scottish Senior Open in 2017, won by Paul Broadhurst, but aside from that it hasn’t really hosted any prominent competitions, so this will be a coming out party of sorts.
Here’s what we know: it’s a par-71 that’s fairly short, measuring just over 7,100 yards, and according to Richie Ramsay, who is a member there, it’s not tremendously challenging off the tee. Ramsay deems it a “second shot golf course” and mentions that players who miss greens will often be left in tricky situations. The greens themselves are quite spacious, and, as is the case with most links courses, the firm ground and subtle slopes should make it difficult to get close to many pins, changing the definition of what is considered a “good” approach shot. That being said, considering the length and relative lack of trouble off the tee, you would expect scores to be fairly low this week. That is, unless the wind is ripping– which, considering that the Renaissance Club is fully exposed and sits right on the coast, is a distinct possibility.
Rory McIlroy headlines the field after opting out of Lahinch last week; he’s the clear favorite at 7.8 and given his recent form he has to be considered, even at such an unfortunate price. Other headliners include Rickie Fowler (17.0), Justin Thomas (19.0), and Henrik Stenson (28.0), and there is a large contingent of players at the next price tier who should be looked at closely– guys like Rafa Cabrera-Bello (35.0), Martin Kaymer (38.0), and Matt Fitzpatrick (39.0), among others. After a close call with Eddie Pepperell last week, let’s see if we can find the mark with one of these three:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Matt Wallace (33.0)- Wallace’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric, as he’s gone from minor golf outposts like the Alps Tour to regular contention in the world’s biggest tournaments in a span of less than three years. He found the winner’s circle three times on the European Tour in 2018, and he’s logged eleven top-20 finishes in 18 worldwide starts this season. Recent highlights include a T3 at the BMW International a couple of weeks ago, a T3 at the PGA Championship six weeks back, and a runner-up finish at the British Masters, which was held on the links at Hillside. Aside from a disappointing weekend at Lahinch last week, where he shot 73-71 to finish T55, there hasn’t been much to suggest that Wallace will be anywhere other than the first page of the leaderboard this week. Given his recent form, proven nose for the finish line, and extensive links experience, he’s a tasty option at better than 30/1.
Jorge Campillo (49.0)- Most professional golfers go their entire careers without a stretch like Campillo has had over the past four months: nine top-20 finishes in his last 11 starts, including six finishes of 3rd or better and a victory at the Trophee Hassan II. He just seems to play well every week, and he was back at it again last week, finishing T7 at Lahinch after closing with a 66. And that wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Campillo excel on a links course: he finished 3rd in last year’s Irish Open at Ballyliffin, and he found the top-10 in this tournament back in 2016, when it was held at Castle Stuart, a “modern links” that is often compared to the Renaissance Club. Since this is the first time we’re seeing this course in competition, there’s more guesswork than usual in terms of course fit, but I think sticking with a guy who is playing the best golf of his career and is fresh off a good week on the links sounds like a good plan– especially when the player in question can be backed at nearly 50/1. Campillo is a very sensible option this week.
Paul Waring (84.0)- It’s been a long, winding road to prominence for Waring, whose first professional victory came at last year’s Nordea Masters in his 200th career start on the European Tour. But the way he’s been playing lately, I think it’s safe to say that it won’t take him another 200 starts to get win number two: Waring has been in contention several times this season, including a near-miss at the GolfSixes Cascais team event last month with partner Tom Lewis (they finished second), and he logged top-10s in both of the tournaments he’s played that have featured links courses, finishing T6 in the British Masters back in May and T7 in last week’s Irish Open, where he shot 68 or better all four days. There’s simply no one in his price range who can match him in terms of current form plus links experience and proficiency– among those priced at 80/1 or longer, Waring stands out as the best option this week.