One week before the Open Championship, a stellar field assembles at Gullane Golf Club to prepare for the year's biggest tournament, but what will it take to win this week? Read Steve's comprehensive preview here...
“Thongchai Jaidee is enjoying a successful season and in four of his last six starts he’s finished inside the top-11 and ranked inside the top-ten for putting. He won’t mind how hard the wind blows and he looks a decent price to me at 50.049/1.”
Robert Coles won the first ever Scottish Open as recently as 1972. The event was cancelled between 1974 and 1985 and it was rebranded as the Loch Lomond World Invitational in 1996 when the event moved to the Loch Lomond Golf Club.
The tournament was staged by the bonnie banks until 2010 but then the LLGC ran into financial difficulties and the event has been staged at a links venue ever since. Given it's the last event on the European Tour before the Open Championship, being staged at a links venue (as The Open is every year) made complete sense and the event has gone from strength to strength.
This year the event heads to the East Lothian coast, just east of Edinburgh and to the wonderful looking Gullane Golf Club.
The Championship Course, Gullane Golf Club, Gullane, East Lothian
Par 70, 7,133 yards
Nestled on the shores of the Firth of Forth, Gullane Golf Club was established in 1882 but according to the course's website, golf has been played on the Gullane links for more than 350 years!
There are three courses at the club, imaginatively named No.1, No.2 and No.3. The Championship Course is a composite comprising of 16 holes from course No.1 and two holes from course No.2.
With the Open Championship just a week away, organisers tend to set the course up fairly generously for this tournament and according to Sky's Andrew Coltart, the greens are "pure" but thanks to some warm wet weather in the lead up to the event, the rough will be slightly thicker and longer than originally intended.
The flyover below suggests an exposed wind-affected layout with large greens and stunning views.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2014 - Justin Rose -16 (Royal Aberdeen)
2013 - Phil Mickelson -17 (playoff) (Castle Stuart)
2012 - Jeev Milkha Singh -17 (playoff) (Castle Stuart)
2011 - Luke Donald -19 (54 - holes) (Castle Stuart)
2010 - Edoardo Molinari -12 (Loch Lomond)
What Will it Take to Win The Scottish Open?
An experience of links golf is vital and if the forecasts are anything to go by, an ability to play in windy conditions may be an essential prerequisite as well. We saw at the end of May, at the Irish Open, how unique a test of golf links golf is when the wind gets up and only so many players take to it.
Early forecasts suggest we're definitely going to get breezy conditions throughout the week and we could be set for a fairly stern test - especially on Sunday.
Is There an Angle In?
The Irish Open at Royal County Down is as good a place as any to start when looking for the winner this week and also check out results over the last four years of this event, results at the Open Championship itself, and also results of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, staged over three links courses in October each year.
Although staged at different venues to this, the test encountered this week will be very similar as all coastal links courses have the same characteristics.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Since switching to a links venue, the cream has risen to the top. Justin Rose was second favourite behind Rory McIlroy before the off 12 months ago, Phil Mickelson needs no introduction, and when Luke Donald won this in 2011, he was playing some of the best golf of his career. Jeev Milkha Singh was a big outsider but he beat the well-fancied Francesco Molinari in a playoff in foul weather and that might be the key. If the wind doesn't blow as hard as forecast then I fancy we'll see the better players dominate but if the weather turns really foul, anything can happen.
We saw in Ireland in May that when the wind blows hard around a links course, funny things can happen, and with the Open Championship just days away, if the weather is poor, we might find a few outsiders coming through again as the star names protect themselves ahead of the biggy.
Keep an Eye on The Open Championship Market
Whether you want to back someone outright at next week's Open Championship or whether you just want to get some nice positions, keeping close tabs on the market there is always a good idea while this event is being staged. Anyone that gets in contention at Gullane will see their odds for St. Andrews slashed and if you back anyone getting involved here early enough that will give you options.
You can either let it ride and enjoy knowing that you have a great price or you can lay back either all the stakes for a free bet or more than the stakes invested for a guaranteed profit. It may sound straightforward but it's always surprising to see how slow the market is to react. Take Mickelson for example.
Lefty was trading at 30.029/1 to win last month's US Open before he teed off at the St Jude Classic but after a solid week in Memphis, he was trading at less than 20.019/1 to unsuccessfully break his US Open hoodoo. And when he won this event two years ago, throughout the course of the week, his odds dropped from 38.037/1 to 20.019/1 to win the Open Championship the following week.
It's not always easy to make up ground at a links venue but it easy to get completely blown off course if the wind and the draw is unkind. At this very early stage, an afternoon tee-time on Thursday looks like it may be slightly advantageous but do keep a close eye on the weather, that could all change very quickly and if you're betting in-running it's essential.
With Rory McIlroy out with his injured ankle, defending champ, Justin Rose, heads the market in what is an extremely tricky looking betting heat.
The 2013 winner, Phil Mickelson, is the second favourite, closely followed by Players Champion, Rickie Fowler, and both Branden Grace and Shane Lowry - fresh off their superb US Open exploits. All five have obvious chances and brilliant links form but I'm happy to leave them all out before the off.
Having hit the crossbar with Grace at a monster price at Chambers Bay, and having backed him for next week's event way back in February at another fancy price, the urge to back him this week is strong but 25/1 looks short enough and I'm reluctantly leaving him out.
Having not seen the course before, with a weather forecast suggesting a troublesome breeze, and with so many quality players in the line-up, this looks really tough to call so I've kept stakes low before the off but I've still found four to back!
Thongchai Jaidee is enjoying a successful season and he can have another good week here. He missed the cut at the US Open and when defending his Nordea Masters title last month but in four of his last six starts he's finished inside the top-11 and ranked inside the top-ten for putting. He won't mind how hard the wind blows and he looks a decent price to me at 50.049/1.
I'm going to give James Morrison one more chance at a generous enough looking 55.054/1. He won in Spain as recently as May, finished 11th at the BMW PGA Championship, led with a round to go in Germany two weeks ago and finished second in Paris on Sunday. Sooner or later he's going to run out of steam but the price is big enough to hope it won't be this week.
Tommy Fleetwood's record in Scotland is extremely good. He won his only title to date at Gleneagles when he won the Johnnie Walker in 2013 and he's finished inside the top-five in three of the last four Alfred Dunhill Links Championships. His best effort to date in this event is 17th two years ago but he's a fabulous links exponent and having putted better than he has in a while last time out in Germany, when he finished 11th at the BMW International, I thought he was reasonably priced at 55.054/1.
Thomas Bjorn's recent form figures of 11-21-47-33 don't scream in-form and ready to win but I fancy he's trending in the right direction. He played really well in patches in Paris last week and he's a magnificent links and poor weather player so 140.0139/1 looked well worth taking.
Thongchai Jaidee @ 50.049/1
James Morrison @ 55.054/1
Tommy Fleetwood @ 55.054/1
Thomas Bjorn @ 140.0139/1
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