Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Scottish Open Tips 2019

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A Jon Rahm masterclass on Sunday at Lahinch secured him a second Irish Open title and a third Rolex Series title to boot, elevating him back inside the OWGR top-10 into the bargain. When push came to shove, the likes of Robert Rock and Rafa Cabrera-Bello couldn’t stay with the talented Spaniard who also jumps to the top of the Race To Dubai standings following that victory. Jorge Campillo was our only remaining hope heading into the weekend and the 66/1 chance grabbed a slice of the each-way money for us courtesy of a closing pair of birdies.

Onwards we go and this week’s Scottish Open is the final Rolex event until we visit Wentworth in September, so those looking for a Race to Dubai boost will be earmarking this event as one to attack, however with the Open Championship just a week away this will be equally about the elite players getting their games ready for Royal Portush. The annual Open warm-up has once again attracted a decent field with Rory McIlroy headlining, having opted to play this event as opposed to the Irish Open this year. We also have a number of top-class players travelling to Scotland with the likes of Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Matt Wallace, Kevin Kisner, Ian Poulter, Matt Fitzpatrick, Eddie Pepperell, Henrik Stenson and Rafa Cabrera-Bello all in attendance and looking to hone their games ahead of next week’s main event.

The field for the Open Championship was all but decided last week with Bernd Wiesberger, Robert Rock and Paul Waring all grabbing a late spot at Royal Portrush, however there still remains one final chance to qualify with the top 3 non-exempt finishers inside the top 10 here this week also earning themselves a start next week. Some differing objectives in Scotland then – many will be using this as a warm-up for next week, whereas others will be holding onto the faintest of hopes that a lofty finish can see them gain a late, late entry into golf’s oldest Major.

Course Overview.

The Renaissance Club is this week’s host course and once again we’re dealing with a track that’s new to the European Tour with very little tangible course history to draw upon. The Seniors played here for their Scottish Open back in 2017, albeit with different routing and reduced length, with Paul Broadhurst’s -13 total proving good enough in sometime tricky conditions. The final leaderboard is here, although no skill stats were captured to help our cause. The Tom Doak design has also hosted the British Boys Amateur Championship as well as Open Championship qualifying, however most will be seeing this for the first time competitively this week.

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 will look 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 this will be more ‘links-like’ than pure links. Trees and an historic wall complicate matters a little in that respect, balanced with 3 new holes which flank the shore, however with typical deep bunkering, gorse and thick rough, this should still set up as a decent test ahead of The Open.

The par 71 is listed on the European Tour website as playing 7,136 yards for this week’s test, although it can stretch another 200 yards or so depending on the tees used. The fairways have been nipped in since Doak originally built the course and a wet year in Scotland so far has encouraged some thick rough to test the players’ mettle this week. The greens are fescue-based, similar to those used at Castle Stuart in this event in the recent past, as well as at Royal Birkdale for the 2017 Open Championship.

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. Please note, this is the first time that the Renaissance Club has hosted this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.

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

Winners & Prices. 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 . For a summary of winners’ odds on the European Tour since 2010 click here.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here. A damp start on Thursday could worsen to thunderstorms in the afternoon before conditions start to improve towards the weekend. By Saturday it should be dry and pleasantly warm with temperatures peaking in the mid-60s Fahrenheit. Winds are forecast to be light at sub-10mph throughout the 4 days, however this is coastal golf and conditions can change quickly.

Incoming Form: Current form students wouldn’t have taken long to dismiss the chances of Brandon Stone at Gullane 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:

  • 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 Brandon Stone and Rafa Cabrera-Bello have also flummoxed event form students over the past 2 seasons. 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 this trophy. The trend stops at Edoardo Molinari, 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 and 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:

  • 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

My kneejerk reaction having seen Lahinch in all its splendour on TV last week, and reading around the Renaissance Club for this week, is that last week’s test in Ireland will serve as a better warm-up for Royal Portrush than this week. That’s not to take anything away from this layout which also looks stunning on one of Scotland’s most famous stretches of linksland, however for a pure links test I suspect that Lahinch will prove to have been a better correlation.

With only specification to go on once again, I’ve gone for a small team of players who I thinks can feature this week. The forecast doesn’t look too bad so I’ve focussed more on players who are hitting greens of late as opposed to a magical short game, plus some success in this part of the world is never a bad asset in my view.

My selections are as follows:

Matt Kuchar 3pts EW 18/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

With 4 of the last 8 winners of the Scottish Open rating as 10/1 to 22/1 chances before the start, it would be foolish to entirely ignore the top of the market on value grounds alone. Luke Donald (10/1) and Justin Rose (14/1) were well-fancied Europeans who obliged in 2011 and 2014 respectively, whereas American raiders Phil Mickelson (22/1) and Rickie Fowler (22/1) converted in 2013 and 2015. All 4 were using the Scottish Open to fine-tune their games ahead of the Open Championship and all were clearly playing good enough golf to win this event, with Lefty famously winning the week after to blow a number of trends out of the water.

Rory McIlroy rates as the bookies’ favourite at around the 6/1 mark and he’s clearly found the winning habit again of late having converted at the Players Championship back in March and then again in Canada last month, however perhaps the former world no.1 peaked too soon that week given that he only just made the top 10 at Pebble Beach at the US Open. Whether he risks the same thing happening this week remains to be seen, however I can pass over him at the price on offer. Rickie Fowler also holds little appeal with his long game and crucially his putting seemingly off the boil at present; putting woes could also hold back Justin Thomas who’s not been the same with the flat stick since returning from injury, plus Henrik Stenson who’s notoriously difficult to call despite his stellar long game, all of which points me in the direction of Matt Kuchar.

The smile on Kuchar’s face hasn’t been as broad of late with his well-documented miserly caddy payments, Match Play altercations and attempts to bend the drop rules in recent months, however perhaps a change of continent will help mentally wipe the slate clean for the 41 year-old. Despite these surprisingly negative elements rearing their head of late, one thing that can’t be faulted is the state of his game with 2 wins in the PGA Tour wraparound season to date and a number of further lofty finishes good enough to see Kooch perched at the top of the FedEx Cup rankings right now. With that excellent form come impressive season-long stats including 13th for SG Tee-to-Green, 10th SG Approach, 10th Driving Accuracy, 3rd for GIR and 7th for Scrambling. In short, Matt’s playing some excellent golf despite the significant noise surrounding his demeanour.

Scottish Open form of 10/2/4 prior to last season’s missed cut should be enough to quash any suggestion that he might struggle on this type of track in this part of the world and 2019 form of 7/2/4 in his event immediately prior to each of this season’s 3 Majors so far tells me that he prefers to approach the big events in the best nick possible. Heritage (2nd) was the most tenuous of those results as it was 3 weeks before Bethpage Black, however the other 2 were the week before and with his game in great shape I think we’ll see Kuchar seriously contending for this week’s title on Sunday. Result: T20

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Jorge Campillo 1.5pts EW 55/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

4 rounds in the 60s at Lahinch last week meant that Jorge Campillo was my only shining light on the week, ultimately returning us a slice of the each-way money in 7th place. A Relatively slow start where his long game looked a little suspect soon turned around and Friday’s 64 was the best effort on the day from the entire field, setting him up for another decent finish in his breakthrough season. The final 3 days saw further evidence of the ironplay that sees him sit 7th for GIR for the season-to-date and 5th in the Race To Dubai rankings, and that should set him in good stead for this week.

One thing that we’ve seen with the Spaniard last season, and increasingly this, is that once he finds top form then he can maintain it for a good few weeks, so progressive finishes of 15th at Valderrama and last week’s aforementioned 7th bode well for future improvement here in Scotland. Within those pockets of form over the past 18 months or so, we see finishes of 4th in Oman, 8th in France and 3rd in Ireland last year as well as 2nd in Oman and 2nd in Qatar this year – all relevant in one way or another to this week’s task at hand. Result: T73

8th at Castle Stuart in 2016 ranks as the 33 year-old’s best effort in both this event and in Scotland in general, however a solid top-20 putting effort on the fescue greens back then bodes well for this week’s task and I’m happy to stick with him this week while his game is seemingly trending upwards once again.

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Edoardo Molinari 1pt EW 150/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Scotland will always hold fond memories for Edoardo Molinari given it was on these shores that he won his first two European Tour titles back in 2010, in turn doing enough to convince Colin Montgomerie that he was worthy of a Captain’s Pick for that year’s Ryder Cup.

The first of those victories came in this event at Loch Lomond where he held off Darren Clarke and his brother Francesco to win by 3 strokes; 6 weeks later he once again got the better of his younger brother from the final group, this time at Gleneagles where he famously birdied the final 3 holes to win the title and twist Monty’s arm. It’s fair to say that since that point he’s increasingly played second fiddle to Francesco as the more accurate sibling has accumulated titles at a greater velocity and of greater significance, however if Edoardo’s going to be in the field to see his brother attempt to defend his Open Championship title then he quite simply needs to perform this week.

Last week’s 9th place finish in Ireland wasn’t quite enough to book Dodo a spot at Royal Portrush with Bernd Wiesberger, Robert Rock and Paul Waring finishing ahead of him, however there’s one final chance this week for the Italian to get into the field and with incoming form of 3/29/9 his game is certainly in good enough shape to get into the qualifying positions. 7th for Driving Accuracy and 16th for GIR at Lahinch was an impressive tee-to-green performance on a week where players were struggling to find the cut and prepared, however it was the putter he was most pleased with in interview and if he can build on that flat stick confidence this week then he could threaten an each-way place at a tasty price. Result: T34

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Matthew Southgate 1pt EW 150/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

It would be very easy to drop Matthew Southgate after last week’s missed cut and a raw form line of MC/MC/MC hardly inspires confidence, however I think there’s a little more to it than that when it comes to the Southend man. We’ve talked about his love of coastal/links/links-style tests a number of times in this column so I won’t tread the same ground again here, however suffice it to say that this kind of test brings out the best in him. You could of course argue that last week should have brought the best out in him also for exactly the same reasons and he didn’t make the weekend, however with Open Championship Final Qualifying on Tuesday sapping both his energy levels and preparation time, I’m willing to give him another chance here at the price on offer.

Having played the last 3 Open Championships, finishing top-12 in two of them – the 30 year-old has one final chance this week to make the field next week and like my Molinari selection above, that could spur him on to a strong finish here. The last 3 times that Matt’s played this event he’s already been qualified for the main event, so recent event form of MC/MC/23 is no massive surprise; the only other time he played this was back in 2013 when he sat 2nd going into the weekend before drifting away. At the time he was struggling to get to grips with golf at this level, however he’s a much better and more experienced player nowadays and back-to-back top-10 finishes immediately before those recent missed cuts tells us his that game has been in good shape in the very recent past. 6th for putting on the Fescue greens of Royal Birkdale is an encouraging stat for this and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a bounce back to contending form for Southgate here this week. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:45BST 8.7.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.