Venue: The Renaissance Club, North Berwick, Scotland
Date: July 11-14, 2019
Course stats: Par 71, 6,948 yards
Course summary: Tom Doak’s design can be at the mercy of the elements – as you’d expect on the East Lothian coast – and the forested areas provide a sharp, but pleasant, contrast. It should play fast and firm and, along with the sharply contoured greens, will provide a tough examination of short game skills.
Purse: $7 million
Defending champion: Brandon Stone (-20)
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf, 10.30am
Friday: Sky Sports Golf, 10.30am; Sky Sports Main Event, 12.45pm and 3.50pm
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf, 3pm; Sky Sports Main Event, 6.45pm
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf, 3pm; Sky Sports Main Event, 7pm
Scottish Open betting tips: Steve’s players to follow
Henrik Stenson (18/1) hasn’t won for two years but with the Open, the scene of his greatest triumph, on the horizon he seems to be rounding into form at just the right time.
Consecutive top 10s, at the US Open and Canadian Open, are easily his best performances of the year and the PGA Tour’s leader in strokes gained approaching the green should enjoy a good week here.
Hitting the fairways shouldn’t be a problem for the master of the 3-wood – he’s 5th in driving accuracy – and if he can improve on the greens it feels like the 43-year-old could play a major part here.
It will certainly pay to keep an eye on the Swede. Stenson finished tied for 13th in the Scottish Open three years ago before overwhelming Phil Mickelson in a fabulous final round at Royal Troon.
With conventional wisdom suggesting Renaissance will be set up in such a way that wouldn’t hurt those heading to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush, any show of form could be significant.
There are fewer players in better touch on the European Tour than Rafa Cabrera Bello (25/1).
The Spaniard beat Callum Shinkwin in a play-off two years ago to win the Scottish Open and tuned up nicely at Lahinch last week with a tied 4th finish.
He’s likely to feel a little aggrieved at how that all turned out. While Jon Rahm’s final round 62 was faultless, Cabrera Bello could only post a one-under 69.
But the week as a whole, and particularly a Saturday 63 that was somewhat overshadowed by Robert Rock’s heroics as he tried to chase down the European Tour’s second 59, reveals a man in great touch.
Those Lahinch efforts followed a tied 3rd at the BMW International Open and, given they were his first top 10s since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, it feels an interesting move.
Matt Kuchar (18/1) has often in recent years used the Scottish Open as a springboard to a Claret Jug assault and, if he’s to finally get his hands on a major title at Portrush, we can expect him to challenge strongly this week.
The controversial American was tied fourth at Dundonald two years ago before succumbing to Jordan Spieth’s incredible back nine burst at Royal Birkdale.
He was tied second in 2015, and just inside the top 10 four years earlier, so he’s got plenty of previous in this Open warm up.
You could argue that the Kuchar we see today is a very different – more ruthless – character than in previous years.
Twice a winner on the PGA Tour in the early part of this campaign, he’s had eight top 10s and 12 top 25s in 17 starts.
Third in GIR, 5th in scoring average, 8th in sand saves and 10th in strokes gained approaching the green, we know the FedEx Cup leader should put in a big challenge.
Of very slight concern would be a three-week break, and whether he would use this merely as a blow out for Portrush, but there are few events where Kuchar isn’t putting in a challenge and there’s no reason why this should be any different.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera (40/1) is enjoying a fine season and hasn’t finished out of the top 20 in his last four starts. He followed up an excellent week at the Andalucia Masters by finishing tied 9th at the Irish Open.
I’ll have another each-way poke on him at Renaissance at that price.
Of the other notables, Rickie Fowler (14/1) won the Scottish four years ago, and generally performs well on links tracks, but has looked out of form for several weeks.
I’d like to see what the wind is doing before assessing Rory McIlroy (6/1) and his insanely high-ball flight, while Justin Thomas still seems to be feeling his way back following his wrist injury.
Finally, Eddie Pepperell (30/1) had a good week in Ireland – in his first tournament back since missing six weeks with a back injury. That was hugely impressive in the circumstances and it would be no surprise to see him build on that here.
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