Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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Scottish Open Preview

Monday, July 9, 2018


This year’s Scottish Open returns to Gullane in East Lothian.

 

The course, situated about 20 miles east of Edinburgh and just a mile away from Muirfield, was used for this event for the first and only time in 2015 when American Rickie Fowler lifted the trophy.

 

Fowler triumphed after birdies at 15, 16 and 18 to edge out compatriot Matt Kuchar and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin by a shot.

 

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Jacquelin, needing an eagle to tie, almost produced a miracle at the 18th, his approach spinning back to inches of the hole.

 

Fowler and Kuchar both return, as does Rafa Cabrera Bello, who won the trophy at Dundonald Links 12 months ago.

 

With Carnoustie in mind, also make a close note of this week’s field. Why? Six of the last eight Open winners had played in the Scottish Open the week before.

 

That’s why Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell and Luke List are jetting across the pond to hone their links skills.

 

The Course

 

There are three courses at Gullane and this week’s Championship course uses a composite of the No. 1 and No. 2 courses – the idea being that the layout starts and finishes in the village. Specifically, it’s 16 holes from No. 1 (2nd to 16th and 18th) and two holes from No. 2 (7th and 8th).

That equates to a scorecard showing a par of 70 and measuring 7,133 yards. The two par 5s are the 523-yard second hole and the 599-yard 16th. There are seven par 4s of 460 yards or more but three measuring between 337 yards and 390 in the first six holes although the 390-yard opener ranked No.1 hardest hole in 2015.

That leads to a rather uneven split of 3,416 yards going out and 3,717 yards coming home. Fowler flourished over the final four last year, playing 15-18 in an aggregate score of 9-under (he won with 12-under).

More undulating than some links courses, holes often sweep down hills, allowing some enormous drives to be struck while taking in the stunning views across the Firth of Forth. The greens are small with subtle borrows and well protected by bunkers.

Speaking to @ukgolfguy, course manager, Stewart Duff, says the aim is to get the fairways (average width 30 yards) running dry, hard and fast with the greens rolling at 10/10½ on the stimp. The rough is quite high in places. Oh, if you love history, golf has been played there for over 350 years!

 

2015 Leading Finishers and Stats at Gullane

 

-12 Rickie Fowler (DD: 30, DA: 63, GIR: 59, Scr: 5, PA: 5) R1 Tee-time: 08:30

-11 Raphael Jacquelin (DD: 55, DA: 45, GIR: 71, Scr: 1, PA: 2) R1 Tee-time: 07:00

-11 Matt Kuchar (DD: 61, DA: 70, GIR: 25, Scr: 2, PA: 44) R1 Tee-time: 08:40

-10 Joost Luiten (DD: 35, DA: 70, GIR: 59, Scr: 19, PA: 4) R1 Tee-time: 07:50

-10 Eddie Pepperell (DD: 45, DA: 32, GIR: 8, Scr: 61, PA: 13) R1 Tee-time: 10:40

-10 Marc Warren (DD: 17, DA: 45, GIR: 53, Scr: 9, PA: 20) R1 Tee-time: 13:20

-10 Daniel Brooks (DD: 10, DA: 75, GIR: 8, Scr: 9, PA: 8) R1 Tee-time: 15:40

-10 Luke Donald (DD: 72, DA: 55, GIR: 36, Scr: 23, PA: 9) R1 Tee-time: 12:40

-10 Ross Fisher (DD: 41, DA: 8, GIR: 32, Scr: 25, PA: 19) R1 Tee-time: 07:40

 

Notes: There was a real emphasis on short game back in 2015. The top three finishers and two others in the top nine were ranked in the top ten for Scrambling while five of those nine were also ranked in the top ten for Putting Average. As for the modest tee-to-green stats of the leading finishers, Justin Rose said in 2015 that he could get away with a couple of loose shots that he wouldn’t on other courses.

 

 

Weather

 

Average wind speed at Gullane is 12mph but it could be less than that over the first few days before getting a little breezier for Sunday’s finale. Temperatures are in the high 60s Thursday/Friday before climbing into the 70s over the weekend. Expect a nice mix of sunshine and cloud but also be aware that weather forecasts can change quickly in this part of the world!

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Justin Rose

A brilliant winner of the 2014 Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, Rose opened with a pair of 66s when defending at Gullane 12 months later but shot 72-76 on the weekend to finish T74. That rather highlights a surprising inconsistency on the links which is also shown by just one top ten in the Open Championship since finishing T4 as an amateur in 1998. On current form, he has to have a big chance here though. Last three starts: T10 U.S. Open, T6 Memorial, three-shot winner at Colonial.

 

Rickie Fowler

Despite missing cuts at Memorial and the U.S. Open on his two starts ahead of the 2015 Scottish Open here, Fowler still had plenty of confidence having produced a brilliant finish to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass. World No. 9 at the time, he showed his love of links golf with two 66s and two 68s to win by one and either side of that victory he’s posted T8 at Royal Aberdeen and T9 at Dundonald last year. He returns on the back of four straight top 20s this time and sitting 6th in Scrambling on the PGA Tour.

 

Patrick Reed

Americans finished first and second here in 2015 so the Masters champ will want a piece of the action too. He added this event to his schedule in 2016, finishing T10 at Castle Stuart two years ago but missing the cut at Dundonald Links in 2017. Since his big breakthrough moment at Augusta National, Reed had has shown his class with T8 in the Wells Fargo and T4 in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. Has the short-game prowess to shine bright this week.

 

Tyrrell Hatton

Hatton can land the big cheques in links tournament, especially in Scotland. He was T5 in the Open at Troon two years ago and is the two-time defending champion at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Scottish Open? Second at Castle Stuart in 2016 and fourth at Royal Aberdeen in 2014. After bouncing back to form with T6 in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, he added T16 in the Open de France so it’s very easy to see him playing a big part in the finish this week.

 

Phil Mickelson

This is Phil’s 15th appearance in the Scottish Open. With Gullane so close to Muirfield, he’ll no doubt be popping down the road to see the scene of his brilliant Open win in 2013. That victory came seven days after he’d captured the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and he’s since finished T13 at Royal Aberdeen in 2014 and T13 back at Castle Stuart in 2016. With some links air back in his nostrils, Mickelson (T31 at Gullane in 2015) will hope he can show the form which gave him victory in the WGC-Mexico Championship in March.

 

Hideki Matsuyama

Can Matsuyama play links golf? T6 on his Open debut at nearly Muirfield in 2013 followed by top 20s in 2015 and 2017 says ‘yes’ and he was also T14 in last year’s Irish Open at Portstewart. This is his debut in the Scottish Open. The Japanese star is in good nick after T16s at both the U.S. Open and Byron Nelson and T13 at Memorial on his last three starts while 7th in Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green highlights an impressive short game.

 

Matt Kuchar

The American is a firm believer in the idea that honing links skills in the Scottish Open is the ideal prep for the Open Championship a week later. It so nearly worked to perfection last year when the Ryder Cup star followed a fourth place at Dundonald Links by finishing a somewhat unlucky runner-up to Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale. Kooch will be delighted to see this week’s event back at Gullane where he was T2 back in 2015 and it might help provide a spark after a stretch of nine starts without a top ten since T8 at April’s Houston Open.

 

Russell Knox

The hottest golfer on the European Tour. Knox burst through the field to finish runner-up at the Open de France two weeks ago and, on Sunday, banged in a pair of 40 footers, one in regulation, one in the play-off, to score a dramatic victory in the Irish Open. Now up to fifth in the Race to Dubai, he returns to a Gullane course where he took T10 in 2015. Also T10 at Castle Stuart, he clearly loves playing in his home Scottish Open although it’s fair assumption to think that the last two weeks have taken a lot out of him.

 

The Next Rung

 

Andy Sullivan

Sullivan will have a pep in his step after securing his place in the Open Championship with T6 in the Irish Open (65-69 on the weekend). That was his fifth top ten finish in seven starts since April so the Englishman is piecing together some of the most consistent golf of his career. Ninth for scrambling at Ballyliffin, he was only T62 at Gullane in 2015 but he shot three rounds in the 60s. Since then he’s added T6 at Castle Stuart and T9 at Dundonald Links so his top 10 streak has every chance of continuing.

 

Rafa Cabrera Bello

Despite a closing 64, it looked like another near-miss for RCB in last year’s Scottish Open but Callum Shinkwin opened the door with bogey-6 at the final hole and the Spaniard held his nerve to win the play-off with a brilliant birdie. Add in three top fives in the Irish Open, T4 in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last year and his 8th place in the European Tour’s scrambling stats and his case is clear although missed cuts in the Open de France and Irish Open were unexpected and just dim confidence a little.

 

Ian Poulter

Great short game and great imagination take you far on links courses and Poulter popped up to post T9 at Dundonald Links year. He also enjoyed this event at Loch Lomond, posting five straight top 15s between 2003 and 2007. The Englishman was runner-up in the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and, more recently, third at nearly Muirfield in 2013 and, with the Ryder Cup looming, it’s no surprise to see him in hot form this year. Down at 64th in the OWGR in March, he’s now up to 29th after an impressive stretch.

 

Louis Oosthuizen

Scotland has a special place in the heart of the South African after his seven-shot win in the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and second place there in 2015. He last played the Scottish Open in 2014 (MC) so hasn’t taken on Gullane so far. Oosthuizen closed with a 65 for T13 at Memorial and closed with 69 for T16 in the U.S. Open while he’s 11th in Scrambling on the European Tour this season.

 

Jimmy Walker

Walker has played in two previous Scottish Opens and the most recent was at Gullane in 2015. Let’s just say he had a mixed time. An opening 65 was full of promise but a Saturday 78 left him outside the top 80. He’d been T41 at Royal Aberdeen the year before. A runner-up at Sawgrass, he was also T6 at the Byron Nelson Championship although he’s gone a rather flat since. Likes golf by the coast but yet to make a top 25 in five starts in the Open Championship.

 

Matt Fitzpatrick

Back in 2013, Fitzpatrick finished second at Gullane in local qualifying and punched his ticket to the Open Championship at Muirfield where he won the Silver Medal for low amateur. He returned for this event in 2015 and opened 67-67 to be T13 at halfway but drifted to T77. The Englishman has also missed the cut in his three other Scottish Open starts and went home early in Ireland last week. Better news comes from a T8 on the links of Royal County Down in 2015 and T12 in last month’s U.S. Open.

 

HaoTong Li

Only T50 and MC in his two Scottish Open starts but the Chinese youngster came from off the radar to finish third in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. His stock continues to rise after a win in Dubai earlier this year and T32 (Masters) and T16 (U.S. Open) in the last two majors and he’ll hope he can tune back into links mode despite only getting to play two rounds at the Irish Open.

 

Peter Uihlein

Uihlein missed the cut at Gullane in 2015 (68-71) but finished runner-up in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2013, was top ten in this event at Castle Stuart that same year and shot three 70s and a 71 for T12 in last week’s Irish Open so he can definitely play links golf. Top fives at Wells Fargo and Memorial suggest he could outperform some of his bigger-name fellow Americans here.

 

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

This column pointed out last week that Aphibarnrat’s record at links golf was fairly woeful. After an early exit at Ballyliffin it now reads 0-for-3 in the Irish Open, 0-for-4 in the last four Scottish Opens and 0-for-4 in the Open Championship. To offer a balanced picture he did win the Paul Lawrie Match Play in windy conditions in Scotland and was top four in the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. A very risky play though.

 

Ryan Fox

Fox suffered one of the worst bad beats in recent memory at last week’s Irish Open as Russell Knox holed two amazing putts when the Kiwi was in prime position. Still, that play-off loss added to the top fours he registered in back-to-back weeks at last year’s Irish and Scottish Opens so he’s a great fit for links golf. T8 in the Italian Open suggests he really is in love with the Rolex Series.

 

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman hadn’t done much in previous Opens but shot bookend 67s to finish T20 at Royal Birkdale last year while back in 2008 he came over the for the Alfred Dunhill Links and managed T24. Add in current form of T20 in the U.S. Open and T15 at the Travelers along with his ability to play well in the wind and Hoffman could make his mark.

 

Luke List

There’s plenty of guesswork involved with List as he hasn’t played links golf in the UK as a pro. However, he did represent the U.S. in the 2006 Palmer Cup at Prestwick although Europe blitzed the Americans 19.5-4.5 and List lost all four matches.  He has at least played well on windy, fast-running Florida tracks so conditions may not be as alien to him as we think.

 

 

Sleeper picks

 

Eddie Pepperell

Made the top four at Gullane in 2015 and also T12 at Castle Stuart in 2013. Likes links golf and won in windy Qatar earlier this year although form has dropped off recently.

 

Andrew Johnston

‘Beef’ enjoys a links challenge, finishing T8 in the 2016 Open at Troon and T27 at Royal Birkdale. This event? He cracked the top 20 at Dundonald Links last year. This course? T17 at Gullane in 2015. WD in France after an 82 is a worry though.

 

Callum Shinkwin

Runner-up last year (should have won) and also T8 in 2016 at Castle Stuart. Made the top ten in the recent Rolex Series event in Italy.

 

Nicolas Colsaerts

Loves this event. Has two thirds and T8 (all at Castle Stuart) and T19 (Dundonald Links) last year. Shot a 65 at Gullane (T62) in 2015 and posted T19 in Irish Open on Sunday.

 

Matteo Manassero

Has a third (2016) and a fourth (2014) in recent Scottish Opens and definitely owns a game for links golf. A few good signs in recent months.

 

Raphael Jacquelin

Twice a runner-up in the Scottish Open, the most recent at Gullane in 2015. Coming back to some eye-catching form with third at Shot Clock Masters and T10 at Irish Open last week.

 

Marc Warren

Despite the tournament switching venues, Warren always feels the buzz in his home Open. Third at Castle Stuart (2012), third at Royal Aberdeen (2014), fourth here at Gullane (2015). T49 in Ireland.

 

Fabrizio Zanotti

Cracked the top 15 at Wentworth recently and enjoyed himself at Gullane three years ago when T22 (11th after 54 holes).

 

David Howell

A veteran of the links, Howell was T10 at Gullane in 2015. Also a winner of the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links. T26 in the BMW International three starts ago.

 

Stephen Gallacher

Lives just 40 minutes away from Gullane and regularly plays there in winter. Three top sixes in home Open, including T4 at Royal Aberdeen in 2014, although current form a concern.

 

Daniel Brooks

Three-shot halfway leader at Gullane back in 2015 despite missing 13 of 14 cuts coming in, Brooks finished T7 for his best result of the season. Similar form ahead of this year’s event.

 

 

Who’s On The Team?

 

Americans loved this test back in 2015 and Matt Kuchar is available for the official European Tour fantasy game.

 

As is Patrick Reed and the Masters champion’s short-game skills should marry up perfectly on this course if 2015 is anything to go by.

 

English duo Andy Sullivan and Tyrrell Hatton both boast strong converging trends and are strong contenders for my six-man line-up which I’ll reveal in Tuesday’s Playing The Tips feature.

 

 

One To Swerve

 

He’s not eligible for the official game but I won’t be rushing out to put money on Phil Mickelson given his somewhat distracted air.



Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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