This week is the penultimate event before the third, yes third major of 2014. It seems like 2014 is passing us by very quickly, and two weeks today we will know who was the 2014 Open Championship winner.
First up though, we are at the Scottish Open, which was won last year by a certain, Phil Mickelson. Of course we also know that he went on to win a week later, at the Open Championship and as a result, we have seen an influx of American players in the field this week.
This event is perfect preparation for the Open Championship, as it’s a links course which will be what the players will be facing at Hoylake.
It is different this year as the event is hosted at, Royal Aberdeen for the first time, providing a new test for those teeing it up in Scotland. Even with the new course however, it is always worth checking out a players’ record at links courses as there are certainly players who take to the test more naturally than others.
It would be very easy to side with a British player in this event, and particularly English players have a good record here, but the same can’t be said for the home boys.
Only one Scottish player has won here, and that was Colin Montgomerie, who during that period (1999) was winning just about everywhere.
England boast the most wins here at the Scottish Open, with 5, closely followed by Australia and South Africa, who both have four wins. Others countries with multiple winners here include, USA (3), Wales (3), France (2) and Sweden also with 2.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that the competition is wide open, and there’s no reason to place any emphasis on the local players this week.
Looking at the statistics it may be worth getting a player from; Australia, England or South Africa on board due to the good form player from those nations show here.
The formula this week for me is simple. I will be picking players with proven form on links courses, and/or good form in Scotland, both being preferable.
Royal Aberdeen is an old course, with a rich history as it claims to be the sixth-oldest course in the history of golf. At just 6,861 yards this par-71 course is by no means long in this day and age, but that’s not the test of links courses. The course will be exposed to winds, as expected on a links track and with narrow fairways and pot bunkers to contend with , hitting the right part of the fairway will be important.
Despite being around since 1780, the course has only been used twice for tournament play, the 2005 Senior British Open, the 2006 Boys Amateur Championship and the 2011 Walker Cup. As a result there’s not much course form to go by, however Royal Aberdeen is a true links test, so form on any links courses is a useful guide.
There is a strong field this week, as expected due to the suitability of the test in comparison to next week, and as a result top players from both sides of the Atlantic have made the trip.
It’s the usual suspects at the head of the betting this week, with Rory McIlroy once again heading the market, this time at 12/1. Next up is Justin Rose at 14/1, followed by last year’s winner Phil Mickelson who is 22/1. Jamie Donaldson and Luke Donald make up the rest of the top-5 at 25/1 and then it’s 28/1 and bigger the rest.
Thanks to the strength of the field, there is certainly some value on offer this week.
Here are my selections for the 2014 Scottish Open.
Robert Karlsson 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w: The Swede has enjoyed a resurgence in form over the course of the season, and he kept that going last week, finishing 4th at the Open De France, on the tricky Le Golf National course.
That was his most recent of three top-10 finishes on the European Tour this season, with the others coming at the Abu Dhabi Championship (T8) and the Nordea Masters (T6).
As well as his form in Europe, Karlsson has also shown a big improvement on the PGA Tour with two top-10s and a further top-14 finish in his four events.
It’s fair to say he’s striking the ball well, and I hope that continues this week.
He has some good form on links courses, and has previously won the Alfred Dunhill Championship, back in 2008. He’s also finished in the top-10 twice at the Open Championship, with T5 and T7 finishes.
Confidence should be high, and with past winning experience in Scotland, I am confident he can go well here at, Royal Aberdeen.
At his best he was one of the best players on the European Tour, highlighted by his Order of Merit win in 2008, and I hope he’s rounding into some of that form again.
Stephen Gallacher 50/1 (Betway & Boylesports) 45/1 (Skybet 6 places.) 1pt e/w: Stephen Gallacher is enjoying another solid season on the European Tour, and at 39 you could definitely consider him a late bloomer.
Gallacher got his first win in some 10 years ago, when he won the Dunhill Links Championship in 2004, and it took him another 9 years to add another title.
Since then though, he has successfully defended his title at the Dubai Desert Classic this year (first person to do so) and also lost out in a play-off on two separate occasions, to add another win to his tally.
He lost out to Tommy Fleetwood last year at Gleneagles, and to Thonghcai Jaidee at the Nordea Masters last month, so he’s regularly contending.
Missing just one cut this year, Gallacher has proved to be very consistent, and as a result will surely be on Paul McGinley’s radar for the Ryder Cup, at Gleneagles in September.
It’s more his links form I’m interested in this week, and as a previous winner of the Dunhill Links Championship he has proved he’s capable. As well as that he has two top-10 finishes in this event, T6 in 2008 and T4 in 2010, as well as another solid finish of T24 in 2012. Yes these were at different courses, but he’s clearly comfortable with this sort of test and I expect him to do well here.
His form at Dunhill Links, Gleneagles and this event is very promising and both Eduardo Molinari and Gregory Havret have won both the Johnnie Walker Championship, at Gleneagles and the Scottish Open, so there’s definitely a link.
I’m happy to side with a player who has two top-5s, two more top-10s a win this season as well as all the attributes required, especially at 50/1.
Tommy Fleetwood 110/1 (Bet365) 0.5pt e/w: This is not the first time Tommy Fleetwood has featured in these previews and it certainly won’t be the last. I am a fan of his, particularly since he got his first win last year, and that win is a big reason I like him this week.
Last year Fleetwood got the better of the aforementioned, Stephen Gallacher and Ricardo Gonzalez in a three-way play off at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. That was his first win and for a while he looked set to add another win in quick fashion.
He is still looking for that second win, and having missed six cuts already in 2014 he hasn’t looked in the best shape to do so in recent months. He missed four straight cuts before finishing T33 last time out at the BMW International Open, and it was that showing two weeks ago that made me earmark him for this event.
It’s not just his T33 finish last time out that made me back him this week however, it is more down to his obvious ability to play both on links courses, and in Scotland. He should always have fond memories of this country due to his first European Tour victory coming there, and hopefully he adds his second here this week.
Twice, Fleetwood has finished 5th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and that is the main reason I want him on board here at three-figure odds. He also finished in the top-20 at this event last year, and despite having no course form, like most of the field, I am confident he can perform well here.
Fleetwood’s nemesis this season has been his putter, and he improved massively on the greens two weeks ago, when be broke that horrible run of missed cuts. I have no doubts that the rest of his game can stand up to this test, so as long as he can putt like he did in his last event, and hopefully improve further on it, I think he is more than capable of contending in Scotland once again.
Matthew Nixon 225/1 (StanJames) 0.5pt e/w: Matthew Nixon is my outsider this week, and I definitely feel at 225/1 he is overpriced this week, even in this deep field.
He has been in good form in recent weeks, with his second best finish of the season coming last week, at the Open De France. He finished T12 on a very tricky course, and even in difficult conditions he managed a decent round on the Sunday.
In addition to that T12 finish last week, he has eye-catching finishes at the NH Collection Open (T4) and also the Irish Open (T14) which have both come in the last couple of months. He has made four straight cuts, despite missing five in a row after his best finish of the year at the NH Collection Open and his game certainly looks in good shape.
Nixon has one thing going for him that no other player in this field has, and that’s an individual win here at Royal Aberdeen. That win came at the 2006 Boys Amateur Championship, and although you cannot compare the two events, it’s still nice to know he has navigated this course successfully.
He doesn’t have any form on links courses to brag about since, but in his current form I feel he can go well here, at a course that should no doubt bring back some great memories.
The Englishman is still looking for his first professional win and it would be fitting to see him do it where he won as an amateur, and I am happy to take a chance on him doing the double here, at Royal Aberdeen at a more than reasonable 225/1.
John Deere Classic tips
Troy Matteson 250/1 (SpreadEx) 1pt e/w: Troy Matteson is not a player I consider regularly, but he is far too big this week to ignore, for this event.
Matteson has finished in the top-5 twice here, including a runner-up finish in 2012, and also finished T10 in 2010, and that’s not something to be ignored.
Add to that, the fact that he shot a 61 in round 2 of the Greenbrier Classic last week, and he certainly looks the wrong price at 250/1 this week.
He has missed more cuts than he’s made this year, but he definitely has the ability to go low, and on a course he clearly enjoys, his worth chancing at a big price. He certainly isn’t a player I would back a lot over the course of the season, and this may well be the only time this year, but I am happy to take a chance.