SCOTTISH OPEN: We hop over to Scotland now for another week on the links, and this year’s Scottish Open has once again drawn a first-class field as players have come from across the globe in preparation for next week’s Open Championship.
Gullane in East Lothian will be the venue for the second time in the past four years– this was the spot where Rickie Fowler escaped with a thrilling one-shot victory after a late birdie barrage back in 2015. Fowler is back and in good form, so it’s no surprise that he currently heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 10.5, but he’ll have to fend off several big names and a field heavy on links specialists if he wants to hoist the trophy once again.
The layout this week will primarily consist of holes from Gullane’s No. 1 course (there are three courses on property), but two holes from the No. 2 course will be included to make things a bit more challenging. It’s the same setup that was used in 2015– a par-70 that measures a shade over 7,100 yards– and it held up pretty well then, with Fowler needing three birdies in the final four holes to reach 12-under and only six players finishing at 10-under or better. There was a bit of wind in 2015, as there often is at Gullane, and like most links courses the level of difficulty is very weather-dependent. It will be interesting to see what this week has in store on that front– early forecasts call for a calm first two days before the wind picks up a bit over the weekend, but we all know that there’s almost nothing as unreliable as a weatherman, so I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Justin Rose joins Fowler atop the market this week, and Rose should be considered a serious contender both this week and next on account of his brilliant play of late. Another one to keep an eye on is Scotland’s Russell Knox, who absolutely broke our heart with two late bombs to win last week’s Irish Open (we had tipped Ryan Fox at 94.0) and may be the hottest player on the planet after last week’s victory and a runner-up at the Open de France. Knox has logged two top-10s in this event, one at Castle Stuart and one here at Gullane, and will undoubtedly draw some action at nearly 30/1.
After a narrow miss with Fox we’re back on the horse with these three… maybe this week one of them will finish the job:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Patrick Reed (21.0)- The man known as Captain America isn’t shy about doing a bit of globetrotting– he’s logged several starts in both Europe and Asia over the past few years, and this will be his third consecutive appearance in this event. Though he’s certainly no links specialist, he has proven to be a very capable links player over the years, notching top-20 finishes at Opens held at St. Andrews and Royal Troon and finishing 10th in this tournament when it was held at Castle Stuart in 2016. He excels at controlling the trajectory of his iron shots and his short game is among the world’s best, so his links prowess shouldn’t come as a surprise, and the short game in particular should really come in handy this week, as the greens at Gullane are so small and difficult to find that nearly every player in the field will be forced to do plenty of scrambling. If there’s one thing we know for sure about Reed it’s that he’s not afraid of the big moment, and he’s been in contention several times since his Masters triumph, most recently at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he tied for 4th after a Sunday charge. It was Reed’s third top-10 in his past six starts, so he’s showing no signs of slowing down, and I have a feeling that another big win is right around the corner. He’s among the favorites this week and offers plenty of value at a price like 20/1.
Chris Wood (42.0)- Are you looking for someone who grew up playing links golf and has excelled on links courses throughout his career? Are you looking for someone who has proven his mettle by winning on the big stage… a stage like the European Tour’s flagship event, perhaps? Are you looking for someone who’s in top form at the moment? Well, Chris Wood checks off all those boxes. The lanky Englishman has a long history of achievement on links courses, notching quality finishes in Open Championships, Irish Opens, the Dunhill Links Championship, and the Paul Lawrie Match Play Event. He’s never had much luck in this tournament, though he was solid here at Gullane in 2015, finishing 31st and breaking par in three of the four rounds, but this year he seems to be in prime position after finishing runner-up at the Open de France two weeks ago and T14 in last week’s Irish Open. He hasn’t found the winner’s circle since his 2016 victory at the BMW PGA Championship, but based on his recent play it sure feels like the drought is nearing its end. At better than 40/1, Wood may be the best value on the board this week.
Lee Westwood (86.0)- Westwood doesn’t play much anymore, and it seems like some have begun to speak about his game in the past tense. But this is not a David Duval situation– it’s not that Westwood can’t play anymore, it’s just that he no longer has the appetite for the week-to-week grind. When he shows up ready to play, however, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, as he proved with both his 5th-place finish in last month’s Italian Open and his T19 at Ballyliffin last week, where he was well-positioned before fading from contention with a Sunday 74. Westwood’s links prowess is well known, and though he’s seldom played this event over the past decade he does have a nice record here, finding the top-20 in four of his past five appearances (he did not play at Gullane in 2015). A forgotten man in the betting markets, Westwood’s price will shorten in a hurry if he puts together a nice round on Thursday (or even a nice front nine), and that’s reason enough to back him at an inflated price like 86.0. But Westwood is capable of much more than a hot start, and if he gets a few putts to fall this week he may find himself in a familiar position come Sunday.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Louis Oosthuizen (1.81) vs. Rafa Cabrera-Bello (1.94)
Cabrera-Bello is back to defend after his triumph at Dundonald Links last year, but he’s been shaky since his T36 at the U.S. Open, missing the cut in both the Open de France and last week’s Irish Open. Oosthuizen has taken the past few weeks off, but he’s finished 16th or better in each of his past three starts and has a tremendous record at the Open, so there should be no doubts about his links prowess. Recommendation: Oosthuizen at 1.81
Justin Rose (1.67) vs. Rickie Fowler (1.99)
Rose has been on a tear of late, with six consecutive top-25s on the PGA Tour and a three-shot victory at the Fort Worth Invitational just three starts ago. His links record has been a bit spotty, however, and it’s a bit ironic that the game he crafted after breaking though at the Open as a teenager is actually better suited for American-style “target golf” than the links courses that he spent so much time on in his youth. I actually think the safer bet this week is Fowler, who won here at Gullane in 2015 and has been playing some pretty good golf himself lately, with top-25s in five of six starts since his runner-up at the Masters. Recommendation: Fowler at 1.99