Ahead of next week’s Open Championship, players will tee it up in Inverness, Scotland for the Scottish Open.
This event has attracted quality fields in recent years, as for the last five years it has been hosted by links courses. Players now, more than ever, see this event as the ideal preparation for the Open Championship.
Since 2011 this event has been hosted by Gullane, Royal Aberdeen and this week’s course – Castle Stuart.
Castle Stuart played host between 2011-2013, with the winning score ranging between -17 & -19 during that period.
Winners at this course
Luke Donald beat the field by 4 strokes in 2011, with a -19 total and that was thru just 54 holes. The final round was cancelled due to weather and following that year changes were made to Castle Stuart.
Several bunkers were added in an attempt to toughen the test, but the next two winning scores proved it was unsuccessful.
The next two winners, Jeev Milkha Singh and Phil Mickelson both shot -17 but needed extra holes to secure the win.
Singh outlasted Francesco Molinari, whilst Mickelson held off Branden Grace in the respective play-offs.
The head of the leaderboards, when the event has been at this course is littered with top-quality talent. Whist Milkha Singh is not a household name, like Donald and Mickelson, he does have 20 worldwide wins to his name (4 on European Tour).
More recent Scottish Open winners
Whilst the event is at Castle Stuart this week, it is important to take into account who else has won this event in recent years. Last year, Rickie Fowler won this event at Gullane Golf Club and he has also played well on several links courses. In 2014, Justin Rose won at Royal Aberdeen so there has been some top-quality winners of this event.
Whilst it is important not to discount any type of form in Scotland , 2011-2015 is more relevant. Loch Lomond is not a links course and therefore a completely different challenge altogether.
What it will take to win?
Unless the weather turns, this event should see some low scoring again. There is nothing about this course that is particularly tough, meaning the weather is it’s only defence. Distance off the tee doesn’t necessarily mean anything – as proved by Donald’s win. Also the fairways are generous in width so accuracy isn’t that important either.
Hitting greens and scrambling well when missing them will be important as ever. It may however just be those that excel with the flat-stick this week that will succeed.
Just look for value. As there is no winning formula, those with good course and current form or past links success will stand out.
Chris Wood 35/1 (BetVictor)
Chris Wood has been in fine form almost all season and as a result bagged his third European Tour victory.
He won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the Tour’s flagship event and has been solid ever since.
On three starts since his win he has finished 6th, 23rd and 11th. The 6th place finish came at the Lyoness Open one week before the U.S. Open where he finished a respectable 23rd. Add to that his 6th place at the Open de France last week and you have a man in blistering form.
Wood has never really excelled at Castle Stuart nor the Scottish Open in general. With modest course form of 57-36-66 there is nothing really to note but similarly he has never missed the cut. To add to that, he has also never been in the form he is in right now.
In 2013 he was coming off the back of two missed cuts and a retirement in three of his last four events and in 2012 he had also missed his previous two cuts. In 2011 he fared slightly better leading into the event, making three straight cuts but still wasn’t playing his best golf.
He is most definitely a links fan also. At the Open he finished T5 as an amateur (2008) and T3 the next year. Whilst he hasn’t fared so well since (MC-64-23) he clearly still likes this sort of challenge.
After failing to make his first four cuts at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (2008-2011), the Englishman has since finished 4-9-7-15 so he has got to grips with golf in Scotland.
It would be a surprise this week if Wood doesn’t feature and whilst he isn’t exactly the most attractive price, his chances must be respected.
Nicolas Colsaerts 50/1 (BetVictor)
“The Belgian Bomber” is the pick of the bunch for me at the Scottish Open this week.
In his last 8 events he has missed just one cut against six top-23’s. Better still he has finished inside the top-15 twice and 3rd on two occasions so he has contended in recent weeks.
Add to that his course form of 8-36-3 and suddenly 50/1 looks to be excellent value.
Colsaerts also finished T7 at the Open in 2012, again proving his links pedigree.
This season he has already finished 3rd at the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slott GC, which is very much a links test also.
The Belgian will welcome the return to Castle Stuart as his last two starts at the Scottish Open read 62-MC.
All in all, to me he looks obvious and maybe a little overpriced. It is a concern that he hasn’t won since 2012 but I am willing to take a chance on him here. This is a course that clearly suits his game and he looks more than ready to win again.
Eddie Pepperell 200/1 (Coral)
Pepperell is a very good player enduring a difficult season, hence the fancy odds. Hopefully he found enough positives in his game this week to add to his already impressive Scottish Open record.
He has only made 7/13 cuts this season but there has been some highlights.
The Englishman finished 8th at the season opener (Alfred Dunhill Championship) last November a feat he repeated at the Irish Open in May.
Unfortunately in four events since that 8th at the Irish Open his form reads MC-MC-MC-45. He ended the barren run when finishing 45th at the tough Le Golf National last week and hopefully he can improve here.
On his sole start at this course (2013), Pepperell finished in a tie for 12th which gives reason for optimism at the odds.
He also saves his best golf for the U.K. so I am confident he can up his game for this event.
He has enjoyed success in England at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth (6th and 21st) as well as at the Irish Open (8th, 22nd and 4th). Add to that his 4th at the Wales Open in 2014 and you have a player who clearly likes playing close to home.
Whilst he did miss the cut at Royal Aberdeen in 2014, Pepperell bettered his 12th place finish on his Scottish Open debut, finishing 4th at Gullane last year.
In basic terms his form at the Scottish Open reads 4-MC-12 so he looks decent value. Making the cut at a tough event last week swayed me enough to get behind him here. Hopefully he will enjoy success at Castle Stuart again and better that 12th place finish in 2013.