While the John Deere Classic is underway in the states, many of golf’s top names can be found overseas at the Scottish Open ahead of the final major of the year.
Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Mutt Kuchar and Justin Thomas opened as the favorites to win at the Renaissance Club, east of Edinburgh, Scotland. The Tom Doak-designed course will host the Scottish Open for the first time, just a week before the best of the golf world head to Northern Ireland to compete in The Open Championship.
Both the John Deere and Scottish Open afford one last chance to qualify for The Open Championship July 18-21. The Scottish Open rotates its course, which makes it more difficult to predict who will perform best in the event from year to year. Still, you can look to the layout of the 7,136-yard, par-71 Renaissance course to find a decent player to back over the weekend.
Doak created the picturesque venue with its existing landscape in mind to highlight its natural features. Located on the coast, the wind can play a significant factor in player performance, as does rain. Accuracy from the tee, approach shots and the ability to overcome undulating greens, plus heavy rough off the fairways, is essential to make headway on the leaderboard.
One player to consider at the Renaissance Club is Kuchar (+500). The 41-year-old American is a master in driving accuracy (10th on the PGA Tour), scrambling (seventh) and strokes gained approaching the green (10th). His form is in good shape, as well, as he finished 16th at the U.S. Open in June, which followed a fourth-place finish at the Canadian Open.
The early favorite, McIlroy, is also a near-guarantee to place near the top of the leaderboard. Since January, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in 10 tournaments, including a ninth-place finish at the U.S. Open, a win at the Canadian Open, eighth-place finishes at the PGA Championship and Wells Fargo Championship, and a win in The Players Championship in March.
Henrik Stenson (+1200) also offers some value. Stenson is ranked first in strokes gained approaching the green and fifth in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour. He also placed eighth and ninth, respectively, in his last two events, the Canadian Open and U.S. Open.
While you can expect to see the above pros hanging around the top 10 of the Scottish Open, the best bet to win is a young Englishman by the name of Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2800). The 24-year-old is sixth in par-4 scoring and 10th in par 5 scoring, plus 13th in driving accuracy, ninth in scrambling and 41st in strokes gained approaching the green.
In early March, Fitzpatrick came in second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but saw his game slip a bit over the next two months. At the U.S. Open in June, however, he stormed back with a 12th-place finish. Look for the up-and-comer to rise to the occasion and hoist the Scottish Open trophy Sunday afternoon.