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Scottish Open preview and best bets



Scottish Open preview and best bets

Matt Fitzpatrick can bag another big win in the Genesis Scottish Open, which concludes on the same day as the Euro 2024 final.

Golf betting tips: Scottish Open

2pts e.w. Matt Fitzpatrick at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1.5pts e.w. Wyndham Clark at 45/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Thomas Detry at 70/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Nicolai Hojgaard at 90/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Matt Wallace at 125/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

0.5pt e.w. Romain Langasque at 300/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

0.5pt e.w. Sean Crocker at 400/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Rory McIlroy’s relationship with The Renaissance came full circle last year when he produced an ending for the ages to deny Robert MacIntyre in the Scottish Open. It is hard, isn’t it, to avoid the contrast between those two birdies against the odds and the meek finish which cost him the US Open. And it begs the question: exactly what should we expect from McIlroy this week?

On the one hand there’s some sympathy baked into his price, because 15/2, back in Europe, without Scottie Scheffler and one or two others, is bigger than we’d have got had he won at Pinehurst. The theory is simple: it would take something mighty, almost incomprehensibly so, for McIlroy to come out and win this tournament as defending champion, which surely will involve facing the media for the first time since those late mistakes last month.

Still, it’s not as if McIlroy hasn’t rebounded before. When he shot 80 in the final round of the Masters, he was third the following week and a major champion by mid-summer. When he missed the cut at Portrush, he almost won the FedEx St Jude Invitational, then very much did win the FedEx Cup. He pulled the same sort of stunt after St Andrews in 2022, while his win here was two starts after another major near-miss at LACC.

He’ll be fine is the message, whether fine means more majors or only more other things, although I don’t think there will be a lengthy queue to back him for this. We’re guessing unless and until he speaks about it, but I’d imagine he’s taken a bit of time away from the clubs since the US Open. We should also remember that his life off the course has been turbulent and though golf has likely been a sanctuary, that may no longer apply after what happened last time.

With 2022 champion Xander Schauffele also a single-figure price, this market has quite a nice shape to it as neither appears infallible. There is though enough strength to the elite challenge, and enough serenity in a forecast which only hints at the odd shower, to suggest that the winner may well come from the top-end of the betting, or at least the top 50 of the world rankings, for the third year in succession.

My pick among them is MATT FITZPATRICK, runner-up in 2021 when keen to escape the play-off and get to the important business of watching England in the Euros final – a scenario which might again unfold on Sunday.

Blades fan Fitzpatrick could be celebrating long into the night as his game has looked to be improving lately, first showing good signs despite a missed cut at Valhalla, then generally hinting at better to come over three subsequent starts.

Only at the Memorial (T5) has he delivered something close to the desired outcome but despite Pinehurst probably not being his bag, a closing 69 there followed by middle rounds of 65 and 63 at the Travelers leaves him nicely set for a return to The Renaissance.

I don’t doubt that Fitzpatrick will still have dreams of becoming an Open champion despite regularly downplaying his chances under proper links conditions, but I’m equally sure that this ‘lite’ version, which The Renaissance undoubtedly represents, is far more to his liking.

He suggested as much when 14th on debut, runner-up two years later and then sixth behind Schauffele, last year’s missed cut coming during a poor run of form, and since then has won the Dunhill Links. That’s played across some of the most iconic links courses of them all, but with friendly pins and generally softer conditions meaning less bite and lower scoring.

That’s the formula which prevails here under calm conditions and it’s just fine for a player who grew up about as far from the sea as you can get in UK terms. And it means that while in the Open itself I’d prefer Tommy Fleetwood even at a dozen points less, in the Scottish Open there may not be much at all between them.

Fleetwood ought to continue to threaten and so might Min Woo Lee, the player who beat Fitzpatrick to the title three years ago. We were on the Aussie in a weak field last time out, when second to Cam Davis, but while Davis is 150/1 from 66/1 despite winning, Lee doesn’t feel overpriced at 28/1. This was always likely but means he can be left out for now.

Preference is for WYNDHAM CLARK, one of a few high-class American players who are further down the betting than they would be were this field assembling closer to home.

Granted, Clark has been bigger this year, notably when winning at Pebble Beach, but a top-10 finish at the Travelers last time really ought to have earned him a little more respect from the layers.

That’s before we consider that he’s on the record as being a fan of links golf and has demonstrated why, finishing 16th here on debut and 25th upon his return. Significantly, he was exceptional from tee-to-green in both, ranking fourth and seventh only to make virtually nothing all week.

There is a worry here, that slower, European greens are a problem. Clark has so far lost strokes with the putter on all five starts in Europe, including when venturing across to Spain in October. That said, this remains a very small sample size and we can at least take heart from the way he putted last time out, ranking seventh in Connecticut.

Always volatile on the greens, Clark has generally swayed between outstanding (Pebble Beach, Bay Hill, Sawgrass, Harbour Town, River Highlands) and abysmal (several other courses he’s visited this year) but in those first five events listed, he’s finished first, second, second, third, and ninth.

Should he figure out these greens then another high finish beckons, with his driving generally strong, his approach play improving by the week since the US PGA, and this course plainly to his liking – until he reaches the greens, at least. On that we’ll just have to take our chances.

Clark’s power is another factor in his favour. Last year, the top three drivers in the field, all of them long, finished first, third and third, and big-hitters do have some opportunities at The Renaissance. With that rain around, plus little in the way of wind, 2023 looks like it could be our most reliable guide so far but the 2021 play-off was also made up of long drivers, as was the one-two in 2022.

For that reason, both Hojgaard twins made some appeal, Rasmus having added distance over the past 12 months, but it’s NICOLAI HOJGAARD who rates the better value.

The fact that these two are about the same price (Nicolai is bigger with some smaller firms) sums up the difficulty bookmakers have in rating PGA Tour form versus what we see in Europe, because there’s no doubt in my mind that Nicolai is a little way ahead of his brother for the time being.

While Rasmus has been knocking on the door in events like the KLM Open, in which his late mistakes were painful viewing for those of us on-board, Nicolai has been playing on the most competitive tour in golf. And while he’s not been in the form which saw him almost win in February, he really hasn’t been that far away.

Mid-pack in Canada was followed by 50th in the US Open and 66th in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and while yes, the latter was disappointing, his putter was largely to blame. That was also true at Pinehurst but though not the result he’d have hoped for, he’s now made the cut in his last seven majors and was of course right in the mix at Augusta.

It’s been good to see his approach play become more solid again lately, ranking 25th, 20th and 20th over his last three starts, and although he’s admittedly not been his prodigious self off the tee, that could change in a heartbeat, especially around this very different golf course.

Returning to Europe, though, is key. His last dozen starts on the DP World Tour show eight top-10 finishes including a win in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, where he had several elite players in behind. No doubt that was a coming-of-age performance after he’d learned plenty as a Ryder Cup rookie, again evidence of how far he’s come over the past 18 months.

Then we come to The Renaissance specifically: he was sixth here last year, putting badly, ranking first in strokes-gained approach. And if you needed further convincing about comfort levels and so on, he’d been missing cuts in the USA, as well as the week before in Denmark when under the spotlight around a short course, only to turn up here and power his way to sixth place.

At 125/1 with six places he’s a knocking bet to do the same thing again, as he is at around 80/1 with eight. Take your pick.

No doubting Thomas

Max Homa and Justin Thomas are the other high-class US players who I kept coming back to, both having made my US Open staking plan after all. Homa though isn’t driving the ball well and while Thomas has been far better than some would have you believe, finishing T12 or better in half of his starts this year, I wouldn’t have these down as his optimal conditions and most of his good golf has come under them.

I will therefore pull at the tour-swapping thread to side with THOMAS DETRY, who was also in that three-man play-off here in 2021.

Detry had been most unfortunate for my money, the horn blowing during a key par putt deep into the back-nine, and while he’s still looking for his first top-level win, I do expect it to arrive at some stage.

Certainly, he ought to have built up a good deal of confidence on the PGA Tour this year, where he has four top-10s and didn’t do much wrong when second in Houston. Fourth in the PGA Championship followed a month later by 14th at Pinehurst is seriously good golf, that’s for sure.

I don’t mind his lowly finish in the Travelers, a short course which isn’t made for him and came just days after he’d been in the mix for a major, and in general every facet of his game has looked good for some time. Detry is long, his approach play is improved, and he can be a dynamite putter on his day.

As well as being second here three years ago he’s actually made all five cuts, never really putting to his potential, and was 10th behind Schauffele. Last year he opened with a round of 64 and it’s clear that he’s very comfortable around The Renaissance, particularly so when scoring is lower.

Having just slipped out of the world’s top 50 and failed to qualify for the Open Championship as of yet, Detry might just be able to take care of a lot of things all at once at a golf course he loves.

Rickie Fowler has been playing well in patches and is a past champion whose course form is better than it might first appear, having been on the fringes throughout the first three rounds in each of the last two renewals.

Fowler is respected and you can make a case for firing bullets at some lesser-known Americans who the market tends to underrate when playing overseas, such as 2019 fourth Andrew Putnam. He’s never played well at Deere Run so last week isn’t a worry, but the rain and the travel both are and for that reason he too is left out.

Instead, I’ll add a final serious selection in MATT WALLACE, whose long-game has been good for most of the last three months.

Wallace was better than the bare result when 15th in the KLM Open three weeks ago, which in turn came on the back of 27th in Canada, where he putted poorly. He’d been fourth and 29th before a midfield finish in the PGA Championship and therefore has a really strong bank of form to his name.

The biggest negatives would be some iffy putting by his standards and a missed cut in Detroit, but the latter came after a flight from Amsterdam and the former will turn around soon enough. It’s not that he’s been putting badly, just not as well as he can, and we know Wallace is historically excellent on the greens.

It was in fact that department which kept him down the field here last year, when he ranked eighth in strokes-gained tee-to-green. He putted well when 14th on debut and again when 30th in 2020 and 26th in 2021, though, and if he can rekindle the magic then he can be a threat in Scotland.

Like Fitzpatrick, he’s one who prefers links golf when the edge has been taken off, hence second in the Scottish Championship and sixth behind Fitzpatrick in the Dunhill Links. With his iron play rock solid, he ought to have plenty of chances this week and should he take them, this established PGA Tour winner might well stick around.

Scotland winners can threaten the big names

We’ll sign off with a couple of fliers, knowing that some genuine rags have hit the frame here since it became a co-sanctioned, high-class event. Even this milquetoast version of links golf is more likely to throw up surprises than the sport as we tend to watch it and I’d be amazed if we don’t witness a couple of place contenders at three-figure odds.

My two stabs from a list which also included Haotong Li and Max Greyserman are ROMAIN LANGASQUE and SEAN CROCKER, both of whom arrive in good nick, both of whom have winning form in Scotland.

Langasque was third here in 2019 and has done OK in three subsequent visits, going MC-44-25 and shaping a bit better than the end result last year.

His approach play right now is very good at times albeit volatile. When he’s on-song in that department, the capable Frenchman invariably contends, and that’s been the case for three top-10 finishes in his last eight DP World Tour starts.

Yes, this is much more competitive, but Langasque has always had a little something about him that is perhaps best summed up by having made six cuts in just seven major appearances, a serious record for one of his standing in the game.

We know he can play links golf and has been able to ever since he won the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie, and with a relatively new caddie reading his putts he’s produced several deadly displays in that department lately.

Ninth last week, hopefully he can produce something similar, with bad weather no concern given how foul it was when he won in Wales.

Crocker has also come good on the greens, putting to a top-20 standard in each of his last four starts and nearly capitalising when third in Italy a fortnight ago.

This quality ball-striker will climb the ladder quickly if he can sustain it and it’s frustrating that last week’s 20th, when we were on at 40/1 or so, came despite one of his very worst driving performances, ranking 54th off the tee to undo so much of the good work elsewhere.

We can expect him to fix that quickly and as well as winning a low-scoring, pseudo-links event at Fairmont St Andrews a couple of summers ago, he was an eye-catching 19th at The Renaissance last year, the fourth time he’s made the cut in five starts at the course.

The one weekend off came about because he putted horribly and that was also true last year, when he ranked fifth in the tee-to-green stats. Given the strides he’s made with the putter of late, it’s hard not to wonder what might happen if it all comes together at odds of 400/1 as the American seeks a shortcut to that PGA Tour card he so desperately wants.

Posted at 0930 BST on 09/07/24

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