A tale of two halves last week, with the John Deere Classic coming out very much on top.
Whilst the DP World Tour played nothing as expected, JT Poston landed the main wager in Illinois, and alongside rookie Chris Gotterup (placed at treble figures), it was a great start to July, the month of the Scottish Open and, of course, the 150th Open Championship.
WOW what a week here @JDCLASSIC!! Feels amazing to get win #2 with my man @AaronFlener! So many people to thank for all of the support behind the scenes but most importantly the friends and family that have been there through the incredible highs as well as the difficult lows! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/IGMLFaja4j
— J.T. Poston (@JT_ThePostman) July 4, 2022
This week, 14 of the top-15 players in the world travel to the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, not only as a warmup for the ‘big one’, but to beat the best-ever non-Major field held in Scotland, whilst the Barracuda Championship is, er, yes, indeed.
Here are the best bets of the week:
Scottish Open - Main bet
Xander Schauffele – 20-1
With such a quality line-up, it’s going to be hard to kick out much of the world’s elite from the first page of the leaderboard. However, priced between 12-1 and 40-1, and with many looking to hone the game for St. Andrews, perhaps it’s tempting to look away.
Whilst there are a few from further down the lists, it looks as if punters need to make a decision on at least one of the top lot and, for me, the only one is to row with the very in-form Xander Schauffele.
Even before today’s eight-birdie, no-bogey round of 64 at Adare Manor, I felt the 28-year-old had valid claims to be quoted closer to the likes of Justin Thomas at around 12/14 so the 20-1 is a pleasant surprise.
Xander arrives here with his game in fine shape, coming here off a solid victory at the Travelers Championship, an event that has also recently thrown up 19th placed Lucas Herbert, the 2021 Irish Open winner and subsequent Scottish Open 4th.
Leading throughout the final 54 holes, Xander was in imperious form from peg-to-short stuff, ranking eighth for tee-to-green, courtesy of top-15 off the tee and fifth in approaches, before beating JT Poston and Sahith Theegala, both players franking the form at the John Deere Classic last weekend.
That was the second victory of the year and the end of a sequence of form reading 1/1/4/18/13/5/1 and including two top-15 placing in the most recent majors.
In terms of quality of play, Xander now ranks eighth in strokes-gained-approach and tee-to-green for the 2022 PGA season, 12th in greens-in-regulation and fifth in putting average, the ‘newer’ stats giving him a strokes-gained total rank of 4th.
Links form is just fine, having led into the final round at Carnoustie in 2018, and having threatened to be closer than his eventual 10th in last year’s running of this event.
Looking far more relaxed down the stretch at River Highlands, there is no doubt he can step up over the next year and turn those nine-top-10 major finishes into a victory.
He can go into the historic 150th Open Championship on the crest of a wave with a victory this week.
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) July 5, 2022
Scottish Open - next best
Lucas Herbert 50-1
Aaron Rai 70-1
The three winners at this course have all come here after solid displays in Ireland – Min Woo Lee was 17th whilst both Rai and Bernd Wiesberger were runners-up – so with both these selections coming here after tying in ninth place last week, expect them to kick on as they have in the past.
Such is his steadiness in tougher conditions, 27-year-old Rai will probably want the wind to pick up a tad this week, but, either way, this methodical player can navigate his way around and land a top-20 at worst.
Just beaten by an equally staunch John Catlin at Galgorm Castle in 2020, Rai proved he could be the warrior in appalling conditions around here just seven days later, holding off Tommy Fleetwood after a best-of-the-round 64. That was the second win of his European/DP World Tour career following a victory in Hong Kong in 2018, a result that appeals this week after a quick perusal of the board reveals beaten players such as Matt Fitzpatrick (beaten here in last season’s play-off), Victor Perez (links-lover) and Tommy Fleetwood in 14th.
A spell on the PGA Tour hasn’t been without merit, the highlight being a sixth at Torrey Pines, although he sat in the top-nine going into payday at both Mexico and the Texas Open.
Although he has made his last five cuts, his play is better than the finishing positions and he has caught fire recently, finding a combined 20 shots on the field from tee to green over his last three outings, including at Mount Juliet, where his usual crisp iron play was a tad out. Expect that to change this week.
Aussie Herbert is another obvious candidate for this week, but with so much quality up front, we are getting a few points bigger than his credentials demand.
Best score to par at @ScottishOpen since 2019 (since move to Renaissance Club) among players in field this week:
Lucas Herbert, -35
Justin Thomas, -33
Thomas Detry, -33
Matt Wallace, -30
Tyrrell Hatton, -28
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 4, 2022
In 2020 he ran a sequence that read 31st in the US Open, T7 in Ireland and T4 here, whilst a year later he was T19 at the Travelers, won the Irish Open, and was fourth a week later.
Clearly, Herbert is one to be on when he is in form and coming into ideal conditions, and after last week’s ranking of seventh for tee-to-green it is time to believe he can add to his two DP World Tour wins and one PGA Tour victory.
Herbert repeats form at certain tracks. Apart from his pair of top-five finishes here (led at halfway in 2019), witness his run at the Dubai Desert Classic – one win, tied-seventh, 18th and 22nd, and he has decent form in Portugal and Sicily, always big pointers to coastal tracks.
The 26-year-old also won’t mind either grinding it out or going low, his win in Dubai coming in very windy conditions in 9-under, whilst he won the Irish Open by three shots in 19 under the card. Of course, his sole victory on the other side of the pond is in Bermuda, traditionally a very windy, coastal track.
Scottish Open - longshot
Kalle Samooja – 300-1
There is always an outsider or two that pops up when least expected, but I believe the Finn has been under-estimated by the odds-makers and expect him to make a valid bid for at least ‘Top Finnish Player’ for which he is currently a 13-5 chance against his three compatriots.
Twice top-five in Qatar, always a decent comparison, his fifth-place finish at the end of March was courtesy of ranking second in greens-in-regulation, something he repeated when winning in Germany a couple of weeks ago. By no means a short driver, his accuracy off the tee often leads him to navigate a path others might not tread, so to see him achieve that rating off top-seven figures for approach/irons is encouraging and he should have plenty of room to manoeuvre this week..
Top-20 here on his first sighting in 2019, his improved top-10 a year later suggests he can play in any conditions, and whilst he missed the cut last year, rounds of 74 and 70 are hardly the stuff of nightmares.
A tied-sixth in Kenya gives him some reasonable collation with Aaron Rai, but it is an attractive pair of results at Green Eagle that entices some more interest in the big prices on offer.
In 2021, his closing tied-18th in a rain-affected event reads very well and behind winner Marcus Armitage, three of the four tied runners-up have form relevant to the challenge this week.
Thomas Detry lost in a three-man play-off behind Min Woo last year, ‘Dodo’ Molinari is a two-time winner in Scotland – at Gleneagles and at Loch Lomond – whilst Matthew Southgate is links through and through, his seventh place at Bad Griesbach being behind wind/links players Alex Levy and Ross Fisher, with Wiesberger in 6th and Tommy Fleetwood just inside the top-15.
Fast forward a year and the Finn’s long-awaited first victory at this level and a fascinating leaderboard.
In third, Victor Perez is a proven links winner with his latest victory at the Dutch Open being franked by runners-up Ryan Fox and Adrian Meronk; tied in fifth were Brandon Stone, winner of the Scottish Open in 2018, alongside the afore-mentioned Dodo. Just inside the top-10, Fleetwood brings his own CV, whilst joint first-round leader and eventual T18, Haotong Li, won the BMW International, his first victory since the Dubai Desert Classic, two years before Herbert triumphed at the same event.
It’s a punt of sorts, for sure, but given he shows his best play under certain conditions, I’m happy to throw a few sheckles his way in many of the side markets
Barbasol Championship - One and Done
Patton Kizzire – 30/1
It was tempting to go for the likes of Bryce Garnett, Ryan Armour, Scott Brown and Brian Stuard, all based on their form at either or some of the Wyndham, John Deere, RBC Heritage and Rocket Mortgage. After all, the last three winners have a definite leaning to these events, with Troy Merritt and last year’s unfortunate runner-up JT Poston being former winners at Sedgefield. In the end, it’s just too much of a hit-and-hope, so go one-and-done this week with the 36-year-old, who hasn’t achieved what his talent says he can, but looks back to form after a rough spell and should compete strongly in a weak field.
Having won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour and at the top level, Kizzire brings a touch of class to the event, with his wins in Hawaii and at Mayakoba proof he can not only play in wind but can shoot low when required (wins in 17 and 19 under respectively).
2021 was a decent year for one of the tallest players on tour, with top-five finishes behind Jason Kokrak and Spieth at Fort Worth and just behind KH Lee and Sam Burns at the Byron Nelson, with a 25th and 11th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and John Deere, both results relevant to this week’s test.
Progress this year has been a touch slower. Indeed, today he ranks 147th in the OWGR as opposed to 144th back at the Sony in January. See, slow.
However, this needs putting into context and the pick of his 11 cuts sees him never out of the top-25 at PGA West/La Quinta, 10th at the Pheonix Open, top-25 at Sawgrass, 26th at RBC Heritage, and last week 16th at TPC Deere Run, the last two results pointing to a show this week.
It’s not an event to stay up late to watch, but with the bookmakers now fully aware of Chris Gotterup’s immense talent, the field looks very limited in terms of attractive wagers. Kizzire may be the best of them.