Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Genesis Scottish Open Tips 2024

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The build-up to the Open Championship kicks off this week in earnest in a high-class affair featuring 6 of the world’s top 10 players and 33 of the top 50 here at Renaissance Club in Scotland.

As per last year, this is a PGA Tour/DP World Tour co-sanctioned affair with roughly half the field allocated to both Tours and a smattering of invites and KPGA players completing the field. A Rolex Series event in terms of its stature, the $9m prize fund and 8,000 Race to Dubai ranking points will certainly grab the attention of all involved.

With OWGR number 1 Scottie Scheffler opting to warm up for next week’s Open Championship away from this week’s event, a returning Rory McIlroy heads the betting this week at 15/2 in places, with US PGA Champion Xander Schauffele following closely behind at 17/2. Collin Morikawa and Ludvig Aberg complete the leading quartet in what is an outstanding quality field ahead of next week’s main event at Royal Troon.

Course Overview. The Renaissance Club is this week’s host course for the sixth year running, which gives us the last five year’s renewals to review as a starting point.

Despite sitting on Scotland’s ‘Golf Coast’ in the stretch of land between Muirfield and Archerfield Links, the Renaissance Club isn’t an historic links track – instead it was manufactured from an old pine forest and opened in 2008.

Aesthetically it looks linksy on a stretch of land that’s famous for its links tracks and built to a brief to make it appear like it had been there for a century, however for the purists it’s more ‘links-like’ than pure links. Trees and an old wall complicate matters a little in that respect, balanced with 3 relatively new holes which flank the shore and typical links features such as deep bunkering, gorse and thick rough.

The par 70 is listed as playing 7,237 yards for this week’s test, as it was last year, although that’s from the back tees largely and the DP World Tour have the flexibility to keep the yardage fluid so it remains to be seen how it sets up each day. 3 par-5s and 5 par-3s explains the par of 70.

Greens are fescue-based, similar to those used at Castle Stuart in this event in the relatively recent past, as well as at Royal Birkdale for the 2017 Open Championship.

scottish open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Scottish Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event.

As noted above, Renaissance Club hosted this event for the first time in 2019: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | SG Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2023: Rory McIlroy, 8/1; 2022: Xander Schauffele, 20/1; 2021: Minwoo Lee, 200/1; 2020: Aaron Rai, 50/1; 2019: Bernd Wiesberger, 40/1; 2018: Brandon Stone, 400/1; 2017: Rafa Cabrera-Bello, 50/1; 2016: Alex Noren, 50/1; 2015: Rickie Fowler, 22/1; 2014: Justin Rose, 14/1; 2013: Phil Mickelson, 22/1; 2012: Jeev Milkha Singh, 100/1; 2011: Luke Donald, 10/1; 2010: Edoardo Molinari, 70/1.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

Sunshine and showers has been the order of the day in the lead-up to this year’s Scottish Open and more of the same is expected through the 4 days of tournament play. Temperatures will peak around 16 Centigrade (61 Fahrenheit) in the afternoons with wind speeds of around 10mph, with the potential for things to settle down a little for Sunday’s final round.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the winners here at the Renaissance Club gives a little more insight into what’s required to succeed on this track:

  • 2023, Rory McIlroy (-15). 331 yards (1st), 51.9% fairways (37th), 69.4% greens in regulation (28th), 63.6% scrambling (33rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd)
  • 2022, Xander Schauffele (-7). 309 yards (16th), 48.1% fairways (35th), 70.9% greens in regulation (5th), 42.9% scrambling (70th), 1.69 putts per GIR (6th)
  • 2021, Minwoo Lee (-18). 305 yards (16th), 50% fairways (64th), 76.4% greens in regulation (27th), 64.7% scrambling (45th), 1.66 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2020, Aaron Rai (-11). 285 yards (30th), 59.6% fairways (16th), 77.8% greens in regulation (4th), 81.3% scrambling (4th), 1.79 putts per GIR (29th).
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger (-22). 302 yards (16th), 63.5% fairways (30th), 81.9% greens in regulation (23rd), 53.8% scrambling (59th), 1.65 putts per GIR (6th).

In easier conditions in 2019 and 2021, hitting greens wasn’t remotely an issue – you have to go all the way down to Kurt Kitayama in 43rd place before finding a player who failed to find 70% of GIR in 2019; similarly in 2021 the top 25 were all above that level – and players hitting 80% or more was commonplace both years.

Although last year was fairly challenging, 2019 was played in tougher conditions with lower temperatures, wind and rain at various points, leading to a much higher winning total. 2022 featured wind too, with Xander Schauffele’s eventual winning score of 7-under proving once again that exposed courses play as tough or as easy as the conditions dictate.

Given the large, easy to hit greens here, proximity is of importance for setting up birdie opportunities, as of course is having a putter warm enough to convert at a regular rate in normal conditions.

Put into context, Wiesberger made a massive 30 birdies in 2019 with the bulk of the damage being done on the par-5s (13-under for the week from a 22-under winning total); likewise Minwoo Lee made 25 birdies and an eagle, and the top 6 finishers in 2021 were a collective 58-under for the long holes over the course of the week.

2022 was different given the severity of the scoring conditions, but Schauffele was still amongst the best par-5 performers on the week, shooting 8-under on the long holes over the course of the 4 days. 8-under was the par-5 mark for Rory McIlroy last year too, which was beaten by just one player in the field.

Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, SG Tee to Green is the most common success factor from the 5 renewals we have data recorded for here:

  • 2023, Rory McIlroy: T: 3rd; A: 4th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 38th; P: 29th
  • 2022, Xander Schauffele: T: 16th; A: 7th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 15th; P: 27th
  • 2021, Minwoo Lee: T: 41st; A: 21st; T2G: 4th; ATG: 2nd; P: 17th
  • 2020, Aaron Rai: T: 14th; A: 23rd, T2G: 2nd, ATG: 8th; P: 23rd
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger: T: 27th; A: 3rd, T2G: 3rd, ATG: 44th; P: 21st

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

In the easiest of the 5 years back in 2019, SG Approach and SG Tee to Green were dominant factors for the top performers, whereas SG Around the Green was far more prominent in 2020’s tougher renewal, alongside SG Tee to Green again.

SG Putting was more prevalent in 2021, again combined with SG Tee to Green, whereas the last two years saw Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy produce field-leading performances from Tee to Green.

Incoming Form: Current form students wouldn’t have taken long to dismiss the chance of Brandon Stone at Gullane back in 2018 with the South African having failed to break the top-60 on any of his previous 7 starts. 400/1 was the reward for punters who managed to overlook his recent finishes.

Prior to that, recent form for all winners of this event since 2010 listed below had been good enough to shortlist them at least, with each Scottish Open champion in that time having recorded a minimum of one top-10 finish in their last 4 starts. In fact you can extend that trend right back to 2002 with the marginal exception of 2004 winner Thomas Levet, however he had finished 8th at Wentworth 5 starts prior and 2nd in Italy a month before that.

2019 and 2020 winners of the Scottish Open, Rai and Wiesberger – both here at Renaissance – had finished as runner-up the week before at the Irish Open, whereas Minwoo Lee had produced a solid top-20 performance at Mount Juliet the weekend prior.

2022 winner Xander Schauffele was in hot form arriving here, having won the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour a little over a week before making it back-to-back successes, and last year’s winner Rory McIlroy arrived off the back of five straight top-10 finishes, including 2nd at the US Open:

  • 2023, Rory McIlroy: 32/29/2/MC/3/MC/47/7/7/9/2/7
  • 2022, Xander Schauffele: 12/35/MC/5/13/18/14/1
  • 2021, Minwoo Lee: MC/MC/28/21/52/MC/42/17
  • 2020, Aaron Rai: MC/21/10/44/31/44/15/2
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger: 23/14/70/1/8/76/16/2
  • 2018, Brandon Stone: 22/MC/MC/60/65/MC/MC/69
  • 2017, Rafa Cabrera-Bello: MC/24/4/MC/4/42/26/MC
  • 2016, Alex Noren: 50/6/9/MC/43/12/MC/8
  • 2015, Rickie Fowler: 71/12/MC/9/1/30/MC/MC
  • 2014, Justin Rose: 14/8/5/4/25/MC/12/1
  • 2013, Phil Mickelson: MC/16/54/3/MC/2/2/MC
  • 2012, JM Singh: 25/32/27/MC/7/MC/30/46
  • 2011, Luke Donald: 4/2/8/4/2/1/7/45
  • 2010, Edoardo Molinari: MC/17/13/MC/36/4/47/42

Event Form: The victories of Bernd Wiesberger, Brandon Stone and Rafa Cabrera-Bello flummoxed event form students with little to work with, before Aaron Rai’s win in 2020 restored some kind of order. Despite this event hopping about in terms of venue, the 6 Scottish Open winners prior to Rafa had also recorded at least one top-10 finish in this event before lifting the trophy.

The trend stops at Edoardo Molinari in 2010, however there may be something positive in terms of experience of playing in similar conditions with similar grasses in the past – indeed the Italian had finished runner-up on his last start on Scottish soil on the Challenge Tour the previous year; with regards Cabrera-Bello, he’d produced a 4th place finish at the Dunhill Links over the years and a further top-10 at Gleneagles. Even Stone, with his poor incoming form, had finished 15th at the Dunhill Links on his previous start in Scotland.

Aaron Rai had finished 9th at Gullane on his Scottish Open debut to rekindle the top-10 stat, however his previous attempt at Renaissance had ended in a missed cut. 2021 winner Minwoo Lee had recorded a 30th place finish on debut here in 2020, opening with a 66 and closing with a 69, to at least give some hint that he’d enjoy the course, whereas Xander built on his 10th place finish on debut before winning here in 2022.

Rory McIlroy’s record at the Scottish Open was fairly ordinary for a player of his quality prior to last year’s victory, although perhaps that was more down to his preparation strategy for the Open Championship rather than anything more sinister given that his wider record in Scotland is pretty strong:

  • 2023, Rory McIlroy: MC/19/46/14/MC/34/MC/1
  • 2022, Xander Schauffele: 10
  • 2021, Minwoo Lee: 30
  • 2020, Aaron Rai: 9/MC
  • 2019, Bernd Wiesberger: MC/MC/31/41/51
  • 2018, Brandon Stone: MC
  • 2017, Rafa Cabrera-Bello: MC/MC/MC/47/MC/27/41/21
  • 2016, Alex Noren: MC/38/67/67/MC/3/MC
  • 2015, Rickie Fowler: 8
  • 2014, Justin Rose: 37/5/MC/MC/MC/14
  • 2013, Phil Mickelson: 35/MC/44/2/38/MC/58/16
  • 2012, JM Singh: 37/MC/MC/43/9/MC/49/42
  • 2011, Luke Donald: 5/2/4
  • 2010, Edoardo Molinari: 54/MC

In total then, 12 of the past 13 Scottish Open champions had recorded a top 30 finish or thereabouts in this event prior to their victory, and we have to go all the way back to Tom Lehman’s victory at Loch Lomond in 1997 before finding a debutant who’s won at this event in its various guises and locations.

My Final Scottish Open Tips Are As Follows:

Min Woo Lee 2.5pts EW 33/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The last two Scottish Open winners, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele, rank as favourite and second favourite with all books this week at the time of writing, however it’s 2021 winner Min Woo Lee who’s my preference for this week at a significantly longer price than the leading pair.

Rory returns to action this week after taking some time out following his US Open disappointment and will need to hit the ground running if he’s going to successfully defend the title he so impressively took from Robert MacIntyre here 12 months ago. Schauffele on the other hand played the Travelers Championship after Pinehurst, finishing 13th, but as a Major Champion now I wonder if he’s going to be more heavily focussed on next week’s main event. As ever, either man could dominate and win, however there’s enough doubt in my mind to leave the pair alone.

Scoring has been tough the past couple of renewals – despite McIlroy getting to 15-under last year to win by a stroke, the third place finishers were at 10-under. Xander’s win came at 7-under in even trickier conditions, yet this year promises to be a little easier in terms of wind at least. I suspect the 18-under that saw Min Woo ultimately triumph in the 2021 play-off could be nearer the winning mark once again this week, and that helps the Australian whose three DP World Tour titles have all come in the 18- to 20-under bracket.

The 25 year-old’s most recent win came in November on home soil at the Royal Queensland Golf Club, and with his three wins he’s proven beyond doubt that anything exposed and a little linksy is right up his alley, with his breakthrough win coming at the 13th Beach-hosted Vic Open back in 2020.

2nd at the PGA Tour’s Cognizant Classic at the start of March promised much for 2024, however a string of middling performances followed as the Perth native bemoaned the state of his irons. That seemed to take a step forward last time out at the Rocket Mortgage Classic where Lee ranked 3rd for SG Tee Green and finished 2nd overall, shooting 11-under on the Par 5s over the course of the week for his best return on the long holes since that aforementioned Cognizant Classic effort. More of the same this week and the soon to be Olympian could go very close to capturing what would be a breakthrough PGA Tour title given the co-sanctioned nature of this event.

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Tom Kim 2.5pts EW 28/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

If it’s not to be Min Woo Lee who prevails this week then perhaps it will be Tom Kim who’s got enough course form and current form to get even the most casual of punters who take a glance at our combined stats excited this week.

The basics are clear to see: Tom first announced himself to the wider golfing public here on this very course 2 years ago, eventually finishing 3rd, and he followed that up with a 6th place finish having headed into the final day in a tie for 2nd  He fell in love with links golf here at Renaissance and I’m sure would like nothing more than to consummate that relationship with victory here this week.

And then there’s his current form, the highlights of which are 4th at the Canadian Open and 2nd at the Travelers Championship where it took a play-off with the world’s best player to eventually shake him off. Tom had led from start to finish that week, topping Driving Accuracy, GIR, Scrambling and SG Tee to Green categories, before eventually finding sand with his approach shot in extra time to allow Scottie Scheffler to sneak through and capture yet another title for 2024. The fact he missed the cut the week after, which was his 9th straight week on the road, is immaterial in my view.

No Scottie here this week boosts the winning chances of absolutely everyone in this field and seeing Tom in the mix here once again on Sunday seems a likely scenario to me.

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Matthieu Pavon 1pt EW 110/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

A little further down the betting we find the perennially underrated and overpriced Matthieu Pavon who is still available at a 3-figure price at the time of writing.

Now, over on the PGA Tour I can just about understand why bookies sit on the generous side of the fence when it comes to pricing up the Frenchman. As a State-side rookie, Pavon has already exceeded expectations by winning the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January and will ply his trade that side of the Atlantic for the foreseeable future if he maintains anything like that kind of level as he works through his now extended exemption.

Having only broken through on the DP World Tour the previous October at the Spanish Open perhaps his Torrey Pines success was a bit of a surprise, however 3rd the week after at Pebble Beach – in a weather-reduced event that could have produced another win had it played out to its full 72 holes – suggests it was more than a flash in a the pan.

12th on Masters debut in April and 5th at last month’s US Open for the 31 year-old demonstrates an increasing level of comfort when competing alongside the world’s best players, and seeing him compete and contend here ahead of next week’s Open Championship wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

I’ve already mentioned Matthieu’s performance at Pebble Beach earlier this year which ticks one box for this week’s task at Renaissance, and there’s plenty more links-positive performances on his record to give hope that he can feature here. 10th at Ballyliffin at the 2018 Irish Open where he led to halfway, that effort followed a 3rd place finish at Dundonald Links the previous year in this event. 6th at last year’s 54-hole affair at the Alfred Dunhill Links is also positive, and a best of 12th here at Renaissance in 2021 in a stretch of golf sandwiched between 7 missed cuts bodes well given he’s in far better shape right now.

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Matthew Southgate 0.5pt EW 350/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I apologise if you’ve been reading my previews for a number of years as a) you probably knew this selection was coming, and b) you’re probably wondering why I haven’t stopped following Matthew Southgate over the proverbial cliff when it comes to backing him on anything remotely linksy when he shows any kind of form. As I say, I’m sorry.

I’ll keep the justification short and sweet as there’s very little new to add without me regurgitating some of my previously used words. My favourite prose in that respect, for what it’s worth, was ahead of the 2021 Scottish Open where England’s football team found themselves in a similar position at that year’s Euros. I digress.

Put simply, if Southgate is going to win on the DP World Tour then it’s likely to be on a scoreable links(y) course when he’s playing well. A somewhat soggy Renaissance fits the bill and the Southend resident bounced back to form in some style last week, finishing 4th in Munich after a couple of months in the doldrums. 11-under for the Par-5s was eye-catching, as was 6th for SG Approach and 3rd for SG Tee to Green.

Perhaps, just perhaps we can dare to dream that Sunday will be a day of Southgate celebrations.

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Haotong Li 0.5pt EW 400/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Finally I’ll take a small, speculative punt on Haotong Li who’s the sort of streaky, unpredictable player who could find himself on the first page of the leaderboard at a long price.

Never the straightest from off the tee, a course like Renaissance where hitting less than half of fairways isn’t as fatal as many other tracks gives a player like Li a better chance than his odds imply, and given that all three of his DP World Tour wins have come in the low 20s under par, a forecast which suggests relatively soft conditions and light winds should be right up his alley.

3rd at Royal Birkdale back in 2017 is the single biggest piece of form on the Chinese star’s CV when it comes to links golf, and he followed that up with 5th at the following year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where he recovered from an opening round of 75 to catapult himself to a career-best finish on Scottish soil.

14th here at Renaissance in 2020 is the best of an erratic bunch of performances which is ultimately what you get with the 28 year-old – he could miss the cut this week, or he could just find something close to his best and seriously contend. As ever, that’s the risk but at the price I’m happy to take that chance.

2024 has been typical Haotong Li with two first round leads, a string of 8 paid weekends following the Dubai Invitation, plus a sequence of 6 missed cuts prior to last week’s 20th place finish in Germany. 8th to halfway in Munich and a top-15 performance in terms of GIR despite a poor Saturday is enough to peak my interest here.

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:00BST 8.7.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.