SCOTTISH OPEN: Almost no tournament in the world has seen its profile rise as much as the Scottish Open in recent years, as what was once a glorified warmup for the Open Championship has turned into a co-sanctioned PGA Tour event complete with a $9 million purse and a field that features 4 of the world’s top 5 players.
There are several reasons for this tournament’s enhanced stature, but the change from a run-of-the-mill European Tour event with an occasional cameo from a PGA Tour regular to what it is today really began a little over a decade ago, when the powers that be made the wise decision to stop using the American-style Loch Lomond as the host venue and instead hold the event on one of the country’s many famous links courses. Not only does this showcase the type of golf that Scotland is known for around the world, but it also provides the players with better preparation for the following week’s Open Championship, which is always held on a links course. Since the change was made there have been five courses used– Castle Stuart, Royal Aberdeen, Gullane, Dundonald Links, and the current home since 2019, the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.
A Tom Doak-designed par-70 that measures 7,235 yards from all the way back, the Renaissance Club is relatively new compared to many of its neighbors on the Scottish coast, having been opened in 2008, but it’s drawn rave reviews from players and critics alike and is now widely regarded as one of Scotland’s best courses. This is a true links, and as is always the case with links courses, the scoring will depend largely on the weather. If the wind lays down players can overpower the course and take it deep, as was the case in 2019, when Bernd Weisberger posted 22-under, and in 2021, when Min Woo Lee hoisted the trophy at 18-under. The Renaissance Club does have some teeth, however– the green complexes are trickier than you see at most links courses, with severe undulation in spots and plenty of runoff areas and difficult-to-find pin positions, and the rough is quite penal in spots. Last year the wind picked up and the players had all they could handle, producing a leaderboard that looked more like what you’d expect at a major championship, with champion Xander Schauffele grinding to a 7-under finish and a 1-shot victory over Kurt Kitayama.
The forecast this week looks a bit nasty, with rain expected every day and the potential of strong winds over the weekend. Schauffele has proven to be a good poor weather player throughout his career and currently sits near the top of BETDAQ’s Win Market at 16.0, but he’s up there with some bluebloods like Scheffler (8.1) and McIlroy (11.5), and with some guys who really have it rolling like Rickie Fowler (20.0) and Viktor Hovland (20.0), so defending his title will be no easy task. Picking a winner is never easy, either, but I’ve got a good feeling about these three guys this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Tyrrell Hatton (18.0)- Hatton has been on quite a roll these past couple of months, finishing 27th or better in each of his last seven starts and logging three top-5s in that span, including a T3 at the Canadian Open two starts ago. His stats are just tremendous: 10th on Tour in strokes gained off the tee, 17th in strokes gained on approach, 5th in strokes gained putting. He’s got no weaknesses at the moment and the results bear that out. He seems to play well on links courses even when not in top form, and he’s never finished outside the top-25 in three career appearances at the Renaissance Club. Things seem to be set up perfectly for Hatton this week and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he cashed in on the momentum for his second career PGA Tour victory.
Lucas Herbert (43.0)- It’s been a difficult year for Herbert but there are signs that his game is turning the corner, most notably his T15 in the Travelers Championship last time out, when he fired four straight rounds in the 60s and posted 15-under for the week. He’s been a streaky player throughout his career, which isn’t ideal but also means that when he’s on, he can take it deep. We’ve seen it before at this tournament– Herbert posted back-to-back top-5s here in 2020 and 2021, so there’s clearly something about the Renaissance Course that clicks with his game. It’s a perfect opportunity to build on his success at the Travelers, and he has the game to win when he’s rolling. He’s worth a bet this week at better than 40/1.
Padraig Harrington (128.0)- Harrington has showed this year that he still has a lot of game at age 51, dominating the Champions Tour and making the cut in all five appearances on the regular Tour, most recently finishing T27 at the U.S. Open. He still hits the ball plenty far enough to succeed, especially at a course like the Renaissance Club, where prodigious length off the tee is not required. Harrington has produced some nice results in this tournament in recent years despite not always being in top form entering the event, finishing T18 in 2021 and 9th in 2020, indicating that the course is a great fit for his game. He just won on the Champions Tour three weeks ago, shooting a final-round 63 to get the job done, so his game is sharp and his confidence should be sky-high. There’s nothing stopping him from contending this week, and he may be the best value on the board at a price like 128.0.