Scottish Open: Bernd value to double up again

Golfer Bernd Wiesberger
Bernd Wiesberger in action in Denmark

With the Open Championship just over a week away, the European Tour heads to North Berwick for the Scottish Open and Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...

"The 2019 winner, Bernd Wiesberger, is often a bigger price than he should be and that appears to be the case here."

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 but with the Open cancelled last year due the pandemic, the Scottish Open was staged in September in 2020, when the weather was quite different to what we'll encounter this week.

Venue

The Renaissance Club, Dirleton, North Berwick

Course Details

Par 71, 7,293 yards
Stroke Average in 2019 prior to alterations - 68.62
Stroke Average in 2020 post alterations - 71.1

Situated next door to Muirfield and just two miles from the 2018 venue, Gullane, the Tom Doak designed Renaissance Club is hosting the Scottish Open for a third year in-a-row.

RENAISSANCE CLUB 2021 2.jpg

Having 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 (the fourth hole in 2018), along the edge of the cliffs and high above the Firth of Forth, is spectacular.

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 first staged this event in 2019 when Bernd Wiesberger eventually saw off Benjamin Herbert after a protracted playoff. Both men reached 22-under-par but in cooler, windier conditions, and following a lengthening of the course by around 200 yards after the 2019 edition, last year's playoff protagonists reached only 11-under-par.

Prior to last year's renewal, the fairways were narrowed in places and there was a change to the layout with holes 1-7 being played as holes 10-16.

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:00 on Thursday

Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2020 - Aaron Rai -11 110.0109/1 (playoff)
2019 - Bernd Wiesberger -22 46.045/1 (playoff)
2018 - Brandon Stone -20 1000.0
2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello -13 65.064/1 (playoff)
2016 - Alex Noren -14 55.054/1
2015 - Rickie Fowler -12 24.023/1

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 nine years, the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the Irish Open, the 2019 British Masters from Hillside Links, the Open Championship, and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for clues. Links golf is a different sort of test to what tour players face most weeks and those events have all been staged on links courses.

Stats-wise, Aaron Rai ranked fourth for Greens In Regulation and although Bernd Wiesberger only ranked 23rd for GIR in 2019, the runner-up, Benjamin Hebert, and the third, Romain Langasque, ranked fifth and fourth and Henrik Stenson, who finished tied for fourth, topped the GIR stats.

Aaron Rai wins the Scottish.jpg

Both the playoff protagonists in 2019 putted really well - ranking third and fifth for Putting Average - and at last year's renewals, Rai, who ranked 29th for Putting Average, was the only player in the top-five to rank outside the top-20 for PA.

Potential Draw Bias

Looking at the latest forecasts, a late start on day one may be beneficial.

The weather is set fair on Thursday with what little wind there is dying away in the afternoon. On Friday, the wind is predicted to pick up fractionally throughout the day and the rain, which we can expect to see again in the afternoons over the weekend, beginning to fall on Friday afternoon, so PM-AM could be the better side of the draw.

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 in 2019 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 two years ago when he traded at a low of 2.6813/8 during round four.

The English have the next-best record. They've won three of the last ten renewals and the first three last year (Rai, Fleetwood and Robert Rock) were all English.

Keep a close eye on the Open Championship market

Given that six of the last ten Open winners have warmed up for the tournament in this event, anyone that plays well here will shorten up dramatically for next week's major so if you fancy someone at Royal St George's that's playing here this week, make sure you're keeping an eye on how they're doing because their price will collapse if they perform well.

The 2016 Open winner, Henrik Stenson, was matched at 40.039/1 to win the Open while this event was in progress and he went off at around 25.024/1. The runner-up to Stenson, Phil Mickelson, was matched at 60.059/1 during the Scottish Open, before going off at 40.039/1 at Royal Troon, and those two had history...

In 2013, Mickelson was matched at 38.037/1 to win the Open before the Scottish Open started but he was down to 22.021/1 after winning this event and Stenson, who stumbled late on in that renewal, saw his odds cut from 70.069/1 to 50.049/1 during this event before going on to finish runner-up to Lefty at Muirfield.

Fowler halved in price for the Open Championship when he won the Scottish six years ago.

Shane Lowry didn't play in this event two years ago but he did warm up for the Open by playing on a links track, finishing tied for 62nd in the Irish Open at Lahinch two weeks before his victory at Portrush.

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 but Rai went off at triple-figures in this event last year and Brandon Stone won it having been a 1000.0 shot before the off so you can't ignore the outsiders in this tournament.

It may be worth looking closely at previous Rolex Series event winners though because nine of the last 12 Rolex Series event winners had won at least one previously and almost all the Rolex Series winners (listed below) can be described as top-class.

BMW PGA Championship 2017 - Alex Noren 22.021/1 1/2
Open de France 2017 - Tommy Fleetwood 25.024/1
Irish Open 2017 - Jon Rahm 18.017/1 1/3
Scottish Open 2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello 65.064/1
Italian Open 2017 - Tyrrell Hatton 20.019/1
Turkish Airlines Open 2017 - Justin Rose 9.28/1 1/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2017 - Branden Grace 18.017/1
DP World Championship 2017 - Jon Rahm 13.012/1 2/3
BMW PGA Championship 2018 - Francesco Molinari 22.021/1
Italian Open 2018 - Thorbjorn Olesen 130.0129/1
Open de France 2018 - Alex Noren 19.5 2/2
Irish Open 2018 - Russell Knox 27.026/1
Scottish Open 2018 - Brandon Stone 1000.0
Turkish Airlines Open 2018 - Justin Rose 5.85/1 2/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2018 - Lee Westwood 55.054/1
DP World Championship 2018 - Danny Willett 150.0149/1 1/2
Abu Dhabi Championship 2019 - Shane Lowry 90.089/1
Irish Open 2019 - Jon Rahm 10.09/1 3/3
Scottish Open 2019 - Bernd Wiesberger 46.045/1
BMW PGA Championship 2019 - Danny Willett 80.079/1 2/2
Italian Open 2019 - Bernd Wiesberger 55.054/1 2/2
Turkish Airlines Open 2019 - Tyrrell Hatton 20.019/1 2/2
Nedbank Golf Challenge 2019 - Tommy Fleetwood 20.019/1 2/2
DP World Championship 2019 - Jon Rahm 8.07/1 4/4
Abu Dhabi Championship 2020 - Lee Westwood 140.0139/1 2/2
Scottish Open 2020 - Aaron Rai 110.0109/1
BMW PGA Championship 2019 - Tyrrell Hatton 22.021/1 3/3
DP World Championship 2019 - Matthew Fitzpatrick 22.021/1
Abu Dhabi Championship 2021 - Tyrrell Hatton 14.5 4/4

Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2020 - Aaron Rai T10 - trailing by five 95.094/1
2019 - Bernd Wiesberger led by two strokes 1.991/1
2018 - Brandon Stone T11 - trailing by three 150.0149/1
2017 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello - trailing by four 34.033/1
2016 - Alex Noren led by two strokes 2.9215/8
2015 - Rickie Fowler - trailing by three 5.49/2

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. We've seen three of the last four winners come from off the pace and it should really have been four from four...

Rai trailed by eight after shooting 70 on day one, he was matched for a few pounds at 1000.0 in-running on Saturday, and he still trailed by five with a round to go.

Trading at around 95.094/1 before round four, Rai hit 200.0199/1 when he fell even further back with a bogey at the second hole but the dropped shot galvanised him into action and five birdies in his next six put him bang in-the-mix. He went on to win in extra time from the wrong side of the draw, one week after giving up a golden chance to win the Irish Open.

Wiesberger trailed by four in a tie for 29th after round one in 2019 but he was tied for the lead at halfway after a 61 in round two and he was two clear with a round to go but it was very nearly a different story.

Benjamin Hebert traded at a low of 1.021/50 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 six years ago at the midway point and both Phil Mickelson (2013) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2012) trailed by four through 36 holes so a fast start is far from imperative.

Market Leaders

This is the first sighting of Jon Rahm since he won the US Open but there's no reason to think the world number one won't go well.

Jon Rahm US Open day one.jpg

An excellent links exponent, Rahm has twice won the Irish Open on links tracks (Portstewart and Lahinch) and he's a Roles Series event specialist too with four in the bag already.

Rahm's the clear favourite for next week's Open Championship already but he'll be a single-figure price by the end of the week if he plays well here.

Xander Schauffele is playing in his first Scottish Open but he's showed he could play links golf when finishing tied for second in the Open Championship at Carnoustie three years ago.

He was seventh last time out in the US Open behind Rahm, where after getting himself into contention at halfway, he was once again disappointing in-the-mix. That's becoming something of a theme with Schauffele and it's now two-and-a-half years since his last win.

As classy as he is, Collin Morikawa looks like one to watch this week as we're yet to see him play an event on a links venue and at four points bigger, although he was unimpressive in his homeland last week, Rory McIlroy looks a better price.

Rory admitted after a lacklustre opening round at Mount Juliet that he hadn't prepared well, and we can probably expect a sharper Rory this week with the Open just over a week away.

Selection

This is a ridiculously competitive event and I'm happy to take it easy before the off so my only pre-event picks so far are Tyrrell Hatton, who is an each-way selection for Matt Cooper elsewhere on this site, and Bernd Wiesberger.

Hatton will have been disappointed to have missed the cut in the US Open last time out but he finished second at the Palmetto Championship in his penultimate start and he's a terrific links exponent.

tyrrell hatton gullane.jpg

Hatton won back-to-back Alfred Dunhill Links Championships in 2016 and 2017 and he finished 14th here two years ago after a slow start.

The 2019 winner, Wiesberger, is often a bigger price than he should be and that appears to be the case here. In addition to the very obvious course form, the Austrian has also finished runner-up in a couple of Irish Opens at links tracks and following his recent title defence in Denmark, which was his eighth victory on the European Tour, and his fifth-place finish in Germany last time out, I thought 48.047/1 was too big.

Selections:
Tyrrell Hatton @ 23.022/1
Bernd Wiesberger @ 48.047/1

I'll be back later today with my John Deere Classic preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles