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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
Cue the bagpipes and pub talk – links golf season has arrived.
The world’s elite and the PGA Tour take things overseas, as the Genesis Scottish Open plays host to the official tune-up before next week’s Open Championship at St. Andrews.
In recent years the field has grown to be increasingly PGA Tour-heavy. Players fly over early to adjust now that it’s now officially co-sanctioned by the PGA and DP World Tours. This is the week for tour pros to adjust their sleep patterns, shake off the jet lag and sink their teeth into the links golf lifestyle to pregame the final major of the season. While it doesn’t present quite the unique test that the Old Course does, it’s an “American Links” vibe. It definitely helps prep golf fans, too, for the real deal next week.
LOCKED AND LOADED FOR OPEN PREP
The world’s best have made it clear that the Scottish Open is the correct way to pre-game. This field has gotten more and elite and elite each time around. Not only do we get a unique clash of PGA and DP World Tour stars, but we get a lot of depth in the field as a growing number of Americans and PGA Tour regulars will play in this now co-sanctioned event.
The majority of the top 50 in the world ranking are set to go including Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, PGA Champion Matt Fitzpatrick and more. Australian Min Woo Lee defends his 2021 title at the Renaissance Club. Past champions at The Open playing this week are Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Stewart Cink, Henrik Stenson, and Padraig Harrington. As for the LIV Tour defectors, they are all noticeably absent with the exception of Ian Poulter, who won a court ruling to allow him to play in this week’s event.
THE RENAISSANCE of the scottish open
This week’s track is exactly as prefaced – a tune-up and adjusting week for U.S. based golfers who seek comfort. It takes a few rounds under your belt to truly get used to the sight lines, weather conditions, and style of play needed to navigate courses in Scotland vs. The States. Though The Renaissance has gotten the “American Links” moniker tagged on it, the course presents a lot of the same feels, conditions and slope that players will need to navigate to play well at St. Andrews. The course features room off the tee but in true links golf fashion, no lie is completely flat and creativity with approach shots is encouraged and often rewarded. The main adjustment for tour pros traveling across the pond will be to the speed of the greens. This time of year is when PGA Tour pros will see the slowest greens they’ve faced all season.
PICKING THE SCOTTISH OPEN
When you are laying out your roster and making a play this week, the lean is on guys who like this style of play and have done it before. The history of the Scottish open shows a wide variety of champions, but the course will have you leaning towards history and links experience. It’s rare that a first timer or newbie to links golf bursts on the scene here. I’ll fill my card with players that have previous links and Scottish Open experience, and guys who are dialed in with approach shots and not afraid to keep it low. “Pretty” golf is not necessarily rewarded on weeks like this.
MAKING YOUR PICKS
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for The Scottish Open, I’m favoring the numbers in links golf settings, and overall experience at this event for who I play.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top 10 streaks and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
Last week at the The John Deere Classic, my picks were a mashup of failure and hope: 2019 champ Dylan Frittelli had a decent showing and I had THREE other players on my card all finish in the top 10. I would give myself an A, but my One and Done, must-play guy last week was Webb Simpson, who did nothing but disappoint and slam his trunk on Friday. For that, I give myself a B+.
THE SIXPACK OF PICKS
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Scottie Scheffler – World no. 1 is admittedly coming off a shanked chip in this week’s pro-am, but I’m not letting that sway me. His lower ball flight and Texas wind experience should bode well, and his tie for 12th here last year proves he knows and likes the track.
2: Collin Morikawa – It’s been a bit for me, but I’m ready to hop back on the bandwagon. His iron play is coming around and he’s learning life without the fade, for now. Don’t forget he won The Open last year.
3: Will Zalatoris – I’ve made peace with the fact I’m betting Willy Z to top 10 every tournament from here to the playoffs. That continues this week at a track he’ll be learning each day.
4: Ryan Fox – A red-hot DP World Tour player that has fared well on other “American Links” style courses in recent months makes it on to my card.
5: Alex Noren – The Swede is a past Scottish Open champion (at a different course), but glimmers of hope in his long game and a good fit for links golf make him a part of my plays.
6: Robert Macintyre – The Scotsman finished T18 here last year and is due for a big week in front of his home crowd. Knows The Renaissance Club better than most in the field.
My RYP One-and-Done Pick: Scottie Scheffler
Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all weekend.
Why to watch: This field and tournament has improved in stature each year, and it’s the perfect links golf appetizer for any fan getting ready for Open Championship week.
What to eat: I hear they like haggis over there?
Purse: $8 million
Winner’s Share: $1.44 million