The Scottish Open (11-14 July) is this week’s European Tour event, and it takes place at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland. For many players, this Rolex Series event will be a massive tournament in its own right, but some players will simply be using it as a warm-up for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
The Renaissance Club may sound like it was established in a bygone era, but it was actually only established in 2008. It is situated between some of Scotland’s greatest links courses, such as the Archerfield Links and Muirfield, but the course is built where a pine forest once stood, and some of those trees still form part of the surroundings.
However, the course is still expected to provide players with a decent warm-up before next week’s British Open. It is a par 71 that typically plays at just over 7,100 yards, yet the course’s website suggests the tees can bet set back to make it as long as 7,300 yards. The fairways are set to be fairly narrow, and the rough thick, whilst the greens are fescue.
There is no course form to judge players on this week, but the fescue greens are suggested to be similar to those of the 2017 Open Championship venue Royal Birkdale, as well as Castle Stuart that hosted the event between 2011-13 and again in 2016.
The Renaissance Club has staged a variety of events since it was opened, including Open Championship qualifying and the British Amateur Championship. It also staged the 2017 Scottish Open, with Paul Broadhurst winning with a total of 13 under for three rounds. If the course plays similar this week, the winning score is expected to be between –16 and –20.
One final angle in this week is the chance for three players that aren’t qualified for next week’s Open Championship to claim a spot. They must finish in the top-10 to be in with a chance of claiming those spots.
Rory McIlroy heads the market this week, which is no surprise, but he will surely not be risking winning next week’s Open Championship at his beloved Royal Portrush by burning himself out this week. He did post a top-10 at the US Open straight after winning the Canadian Open, but the brilliant final round he shot in Canada seemed to leave its mark the following week. He’s been consistent for most of the year, but I can’t bring myself to back him at 6/1 this week when he’ll probably be doing a bit of experimenting in a bid to perfect his game for next week.
If past form in the Scottish Open is a good pointer this week, Rickie Fowler looks a certainty for a top-10 finish after posting finishes of 8/1/9/6. But it’s nine-weeks since he posted a top-10 and he’s another that is likely to have one eye on next week after already adding a Scottish Open win to his resume.
It’s even harder to make a case for Justin Thomas, as the former major winner arrives here nowhere near his best after returning from injury. He’s not bettered 20th in his last four starts and has never previously played in the Scottish Open. His links form also doesn’t compare favourably with the likes of McIlroy and Fowler.
But one American who does play links course consistently well is Matt Kuchar. He’s had his ups and downs this season with two wins and some bad press for one or two things, but he keeps churning out high finishes. He’s recorded three top-10s in his four Scottish Opens and came close to winning the Open Championship in 2017, only to be deprived by an inspired and lucky Jordan Spieth. He’s also finished top-8 on three of his last five starts Stateside.
Eddie Pepperell is another player I want on side this week. He will have to raise his game again after going close in Ireland last week, but he shouldn’t be that tired after having quite a few weeks off with an injury. He could even take another step forward this week after blowing away the cobwebs and two top-4 finishes in the last three Scottish Opens suggests he takes this event very seriously. A proven winner over the last few seasons, this could be a week where he takes advantage if the market leaders don’t bring their best games.
Eduardo Molinari could also be worth backing at a big price. The Italian has fond memories of Scotland having won this event in 2010, whilst he claimed a Ryder Cup spot by winning at Gleneagles. Admittedly, he’s missed four of last five Scottish Open cuts, but arrives here in decent form having finished ninth in the Irish Open and third in the BMW International Open. Another top-10 here would give him a chance of claiming one of those final three Open Championship spots.