Scottish Open: Overpriced Englishmen chanced in Scotland

Golfer Andy Sullivan
England's Andy Sullivan - a big price in Scotland

It's the biggest European Tour event since the restart and Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings has the lowdown as well as a handful of players to back at big prices ahead of Thursday's start...

"Looking at the latest forecasts, the wind is set to be a nuisance during the first three days before almost dying away completely on Sunday and the draw could be pivotal."

Tournament History

The first two editions of the Scottish Open were in 1935 and 1936 but the third staging didn't occur until 1972 and two years later the tournament disappeared again. It's been an ever-present on the European Tour since 1986 though and it's now one of the Rolex Series events and one of the European Tour's richest tournaments.

The Scottish Open has preceded the Open Championship for many years and since 2011 it's been staged on a traditional links set-up to allow players to acclimatise to links golf prior to the Open.

The Open has been lost form the schedule this year and the Scottish Open has moved from July to October but we still get the opportunity to see some links golf as the tournament returns to the Renaissance Club in East Lothian.

With the tournament being staged in the week before the Open, we've seen some great line-ups of late and some very high-class winners, but understandably, while it still remains one of the four Rolex Series events of 2020, having been moved to October, the field is slightly weaker than the norm. But with the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick, defending champion, Bernd Wiesberger, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood all in attendance, it's still the strongest field we've had on the European Tour since the restart.

Venue

The Renaissance Club, Dirleton, North Berwick

Course Details

Par 71, 7,136 yards Stroke Average 68.62

Situated next door to Muirfield and just two miles away from the 2018 venue, Gullane, the Tom Doak-designed Renaissance Club only opened as recently as 2008.

Changes were made to the course just five years later when a land swap with the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers enabled three new holes to be constructed - connecting the course to the coastline and the par four 13th hole (last year's fourth hole), along the edge of the cliffs and high above the Firth of Forth, is spectacular (as you'll see in the clip below).

The Club's website states that "Very little earth was moved in the construction of the course. The design embraced the original dunes landscape, typical of true links golf. Tom Doak and his team incorporated these contours into the course while leaving certain significant trees to enhance the beauty and challenges of play. The course has a truly distinctive style; windswept and open dunes land with trees coming into play on a truly coastal links course in Scotland."

The Renaissance Club was the venue for the 54-hole Scottish Senior Open in 2017, won by Paul Broadhurst in 13-under-par, and it staged this event last July when Bernd Wiesberger eventually saw off Benjamin Herbert after a protracted playoff. Both men reached 22-under-par so if the wind doesn't blow, this isn't a particularly stern test, although we can expect a far tougher assignment this year.

Around 200 yards have been added since last year's renewal, the fairways have been narrowed in places and there's also a change to the layout form last July too, with holes 1-7 being played as holes 10-16 this time around.

The Renaissance Club has been the host venue for the Ladies Scottish Open over the last two years and there was a considerable difference in scoring there this year. Mi Jung Hur won here in 2019 by four strokes in 20-under-par, whereas Stacy Lewis took the title via a playoff in August, with a score of -5.

The European Tour website has a decent hole-by-hole guide that's worth checking out, with short videos of each hole here.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 11:30 on Thursday

Last Five Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2019 - Bernd Wiesberger -22 45/146.0 (playoff)
2018 - Brandon Stone -20 1000.0
2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello -13 64/165.0 (playoff)
2016 - Alex Noren -14 54/155.0
2015 - Rickie Fowler -12 23/124.0

What Will it Take to Win the Scottish Open?

As always with a links tournament, previous links form is a huge plus, so the usual rules apply; look at form at this event over the last eight years, the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the Irish Open, last year's British Masters from Hillside Links, the Open Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for clues. Links golf is unique and those events have all been staged on links courses.

Looking at the stats for last year's renewal here, Driving Accuracy was an irrelevance and length off the tee wasn't especially important either. The winner, Wiesberger, only ranked 22nd for Greens In Regulation but the runner-up, Hebert, and the third, Romain Langasque, ranked fifth and fourth.

Bernd Wiesberger - Scottish Open win.jpg

Both the playoff protagonists putted really well - ranking third and fifth for Putting Average - and they also played the four par fives better than anyone else throughout the week. Both men played them in 13-under-par.

In cooler conditions than experienced last July, with the weather forecast predicting quite a bit of wind over the first three days at least, and with a bit tougher rough to negotiate, we can expect scoring to be higher this time around.

Potential Draw Bias

Looking at the latest forecasts, the wind is set to be a nuisance during the first three days before almost dying away completely on Sunday and the draw could be pivotal.

Of course, that could all change before the tournament starts but at the time of writing, a PM-AM draw over the first two days could be hugely beneficial. The wind is forecast to blow at around 14 knots (gusting up to 23) on Thursday morning before dying down to around 5 knots in the afternoon and it's the reversal on Friday with the wind picking up steadily throughout the day.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Colin Montgomerie won this back in 1999 but he's the last Scot to take the title and we've seen winners from all corners of the globe since. Wiesberger was the first Austrian to take the title last year and we've seen winners representing as many as 11 different nationalities this century. With as many as four separate winners (Ernie Els (twice), Retief Goosen, Tim Clark and Brandon Stone) the South Africans have fared the best this century and Erik Van Rooyen looked like making it five last year when he traded at a low of 13/82.68 during round four.

Previous Rolex Series winners worthy of close inspection

As this is the second of only four Rolex Series events this season, I've listed all the previous series winners to date below. They tend to go to fancied players usually but Lee Westwood was a big price at the Abu Dhabi Championship way back in January and Brandon Stone won this event having been a 1000.0 shot before the off so you can't ignore the outsiders. It may be worth looking closely at previous Rolex Series event winners though because the last six, and seven of the last eight, have been won by someone who had won at least one previously.

Rolex Series Winners

BMW PGA Championship 2017 - Alex Noren 21/122.0 1/2
Open de France 2017 - Tommy Fleetwood 24/125.0
Irish Open 2017 - Jon Rahm 17/118.0 1/3
Scottish Open 2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello 64/165.0
Italian Open 2017 - Tyrrell Hatton 19/120.0
Turkish Airlines Open 2017 - Justin Rose 8/19.2 1/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2017 - Branden Grace 17/118.0
DP World Championship 2017 - Jon Rahm 12/113.0 2/3
BMW PGA Championship 2018 - Francesco Molinari 21/122.0
Italian Open 2018 - Thorbjorn Olesen 129/1130.0
Open de France 2018 - Alex Noren 19.5 2/2
Irish Open 2018 - Russell Knox 26/127.0
Scottish Open 2018 - Brandon Stone 1000.0
Turkish Airlines Open 2018 - Justin Rose 5/15.8 2/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2018 - Lee Westwood 54/155.0
DP World Championship 2018 - Danny Willett 149/1150.0 1/2
Abu Dhabi Championship 2019 - Shane Lowry 89/190.0
Irish Open 2019 - Jon Rahm 9/110.0 3/3
Scottish Open 2019 - Bernd Wiesberger 45/146.0
BMW PGA Championship 2019 - Danny Willett 79/180.0 2/2
Italian Open 2019 - Bernd Wiesberger 54/155.0 2/2
Turkish Airlines Open 2019 - Tyrrell Hatton 19/120.0 2/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2019 - Tommy Fleetwood 19/120.0 2/2
DP World Championship 2019 - Jon Rahm 7/18.0 4/4
Abu Dhabi Championship 2019 - Lee Westwood 139/1140.0 2/2

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2019 - Bernd Wiesberger led by two strokes 1/11.99
2018 - Brandon Stone T11 - trailing by three 149/1150.0
2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello - trailing by four 33/134.0
2016 - Alex Noren led by two strokes 15/82.92
2015 - Rickie Fowler - trailing by three 9/25.4

In-Play Tactics

Being up with the pace is often the place to be at links venues. Unless there's significant rain, the courses tend to get faster and firmer as the week wares on but that hasn't always been the case in this event.

Wiesberger trailed by four in a tie for 29th after round one but he was tied for the lead at halfway after a 61 in round two last year and he was two clear with a round to go but it was very nearly a different story and we've seen a number of winners from off the pace in this event of late, regardless of the venue...

Benjamin Hebert traded at a low of 1/501.02 in extra time before losing the playoff to Wiesberger and he'd trailed by six at halfway and by seven through 54 holes! The two previous Scottish Open winners, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Brandon Stone, had both been seven adrift at halfway, Rickie Fowler trailed by five strokes five years ago at the midway point and both Phil Mickelson (2013) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2012) trailed by four through 36 holes.

Keep an eye on the forecast, if the leaders have been battling the wind for three days and it suddenly disappears on Sunday, the course could play quite differently and they could be susceptible to a really low score from off the pace by someone playing without the pressure that being in the final groups bring.

Market Leaders

Following his third-place finish in the Portugal Masters, a week before his missed cut in the US Open two weeks ago, world number 17, Tommy Fleetwood, returns to the European Tour and to the head of the market.

Tommy Fleetwood dejected.jpg

Tommy has an outstanding links pedigree and the windy conditions certainly won't hinder his chances but he's won just once (at last year's Nedbank) since he won the second of his two Abu Dhabi Championship titles in January 2018 and he doesn't represent value at around 12/1 given this is his first appearance at the Renaissance Club.

Fellow Englishman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, returns to the European Tour for the first time since January and he too looks short enough given he hasn't won in more than two years.

It's been feast or famine for Fitzy of late. Although he's missed three of his last four cuts in the States, he's also finished inside the top six places in three of his last six starts. He finished 14th here last year so does have course experience but he looks short enough at 14/1.

I backed Bernd Wiesberger at 39/140.0 before the off last year and he drifted out to 49/150.0 so he makes little appeal at half that price to defend and Thomas Pieters continues to be very well-supported for very little justification.

At around 29/130.0, Martin Kaymer should give his followers a run for their money but in his last two starts on the European Tour he's traded at odds-on before getting beat and it's now six years since he won. He missed the cut in the US open last time out but I'd be inclined to overlook that and he could be a terrific back-to-lay vehicle. Kaymer finished 20th here last July when he signed off with a 65 on Sunday.

Selections

Lee Westwood has drifted since the market went up and I'm not sure why given he's a terrific links exponent who's played very well in his last two starts. His 67 on Sunday at Valderrama in his penultimate start was one of only three sub-70 rounds shot that day and he took that momentum to Winged Foot where he finished a very respectable 13th. He's no bigger than 33/1 on the High Street and 49/150.0 is too big.

I highlighted how well post-restart winners have been faring in yesterday's De-brief and for that reason, I've played the recent Wales Open winner, Romain Langasque, who was third here last year. He's not a massive price at 54/155.0 but he's a very obvious pick with both course and current form.

Andy Sullivan is another player drifting like a barge that I'm more than happy to play - just as Matt Cooper does in our each-way column. The English Championship winner is another looking to double up since the restart and given he's the same price that he was here last year, when he opened up with a 64 before drifting back into the pack to finish 24th, he's a very big price. His victory at Hanbury Manor in August was his first in five years and he's bound to play with more confidence this year if he gets off to another good start.

Having backed last week's winner, John Catlin, at 64/165.0, it made sense to leave a few chips on the table at the same price and I've also backed outsiders, Andrew Johnston and Thorbjorn Olesen. Both are looking to win for the first time in a long time but both are excellent links exponents that appear over-priced. Both have shown glimpses of form since the restart and Johnston finished fourth here last year after a sensational 62 in round four.

Selections:
Lee Westwood @ 49/150.0
Romain Langasque @ 54/155.0
Andy Sullivan @ 59/160.0
John Catlin @ 64/165.0
Andrew Johnston @ 89/190.0
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 129/1130.0

I'll be back later today with my Sanderson Farms Championship preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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