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What a glorious Open Championship aperitif we have at the Renaissance Club close by iconic Muirfield in North Berwick where nine of the world’s top ten turn out in a star-studded field for the most competitive Scottish Open in history.
Gone are the days when a handful of Americans came over on a pre-Open working holiday, this is serious $8m business now that the tournament also forms an official part of the PGA Tour.
In the same way, but at a vastly lower level, this week’s other TV golf, the Barbasol in Kentucky, is co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour and is open to any Europeans not involved in Scotland - bar, of course, the LIV defectors to whom Paul Casey must now be added when the third leg of that controversial series arrives in New Jersey at the end of the month. How many more to come?
LIV has many detractors but the South African contingent couldn’t be happier with Branden Grace joining London winner Charl Schwartzel as chief beneficiaries of Saudi largesse by capturing the bigger, better second edition in Portland.
Those Springboks are jumping! With his Centurion third plus team prize money in both 54-hole events, Grace is now almost $7m richer for just six days’ work, plus the tidy signing-on fee - and Schwartzel, a member of the same 'Stinger' team, is not far behind.
Yet neither is likely to be happier than Adrian Meronk, the only Pole on the European circuit, who heads to Scotland as Irish Open champion having finally broken through after a fistful of near misses and must be a serious Ryder Cup contender.
With Casey joining Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sam Horsfield under the LIV flag and presumably all are in danger of eliminating themselves from Ryder Cup consideration, captain Stenson must be tearing his hair out as to where to find 12 worthy representatives for Rome.
Meronk’s consistency and dedication will undoubtedly commend this 6ft 6in giant. A little flaky under Sunday pressure in the past, this time 35/1 shot Meronk found the big putts at the right time to see off the fast-finishing Ryan Fox, the New Zealand iron man playing for the ninth week in a row.
Amazingly, Foxy goes for No.10 at the Renaissance but he and Meronk will do well to shine in a line-up where the only absent star is Rory McIlroy who instead has been warming up for St Andrews, along with a certain T Woods, at the 36-hole JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland.
Newly-crowned US Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick and a who’s who of world golf are playing in both events, which means that if they all play a practice round in Scotland, they’ll be on a seven-day working week.
It remains to be seen whether the extra rounds impinge on their performance or assist it but with FedEx Cup points now on the line, punters can be assured the PGA Tour contingent will be giving the Scottish their full attention.
This is the fourth edition at the linksy Tom Doak-designed 2008 creation carved out of 300 acres of pine forests and highlighted by the three-hole coastline stretch from 9 to 11 in mid-round which, along with the 8th, are the course’s crowning glory. The tenth with its green close to a cliff edge high above the Firth of Forth is particularly dramatic.
Looking at past results, all of which went into extra time, at 7291 yards par 71 it rewards straight drivers with sharp short games rather than big hitters. Fitzpatrick, pipped by Min Woo Lee in last year’s three-man shootout, Open champion Collin Morikawa and maybe Arron Rai, victor over Tommy Fleetwood in the 2020 playoff, are the right types.
The bookies have world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas as 12/1 co-favourites but all three came, saw but failed to conquer last year and Rahm’s game is less secure 12 months on.
In contrast, Fitzpatrick is metaphorically ten foot taller now he’s knocked off his first Major and at 20/1 looks an each-way steal although such is the depth of a field that has attracted almost 60 PGA Tourists that defending champ Lee is on offer at 160/1. No surprise really as the young Aussie has been having a grim time in America.
Patrick Cantlay is the right type to contend but played so abysmally in the last round of the Travelers when saddled with our money and slumping from second to 13th that it is hard to forgive.
In the week before the defence of his Claret Jug, Morikawa will be more than keen to put himself into an ultra-positive mindset for the big one after a few generally disappointing weeks by his own exacting standards although with a half-decent third round he would have won the US Open. Instead, that 77 at Brookline proved too much of a millstone round his neck. He had to settle for fifth but the game is almost there.
Thomas, eighth last year and ninth when Bernd Wiesberger won in 2019, was a disappointment at Brookline but that great PGA Championship comeback is still fresh in the mind and four fine rounds for third place in the Canadian Open were also mightily impressive.
He must be in the mix and while Rai was a mite disappointing after a good first 36 at the Irish Open, the man from Wolverhampton still looks best outsider at 80/1, along with 90/1 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, runner-up to JT Poston at the JDC on Sunday and another with the right game for Renaissance.
Others to look out for are reliable Ryder Cupper Viktor Hovland, exciting US rookie Cameron Young and Memorial winner Billy Horschel, already successful on UK soil at Wentworth last year.
Expect a breezy, cloudy, warm (by Scottish standards) week in East Lothian with a damp finish on Sunday, though hopefully not for punters!
Scottish Open Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 2pts each-way Matt Fitzpatrick at 20/1 with William Hill (8 places) (opens in new tab)
- 1.5pts each-way Collin Morikawa at 30/1 with William Hill (8 places) (opens in new tab)
- 1.5pts each-way Justin Thomas at 14/1 with William Hill (8 places) (opens in new tab)
- 0.5pt each-way Arron Rai at 70/1 with Bet365 (5 places) (opens in new tab)
- 0.5pt each-way Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 80/1 with Bet365 (5 places) (opens in new tab)
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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