Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open guide: A preview, profiles and best bets
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 08/07/14 7:57pm
This week's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen kicks off a spectacular fortnight of links golf.
With the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool getting under way a week on Thursday, many of the Hoylake hopefuls have chosen to hone their games north of the border and make the long, but hopefully very worthwhile trek, to Royal Aberdeen.
The dream scenario will be to follow in Phil Mickelson's footsteps and win both events. The left-hander pulled off his brilliant double 12 months ago when he captured the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links before heading to Muirfield and landing his first Claret Jug courtesy of a spectacular closing 66.
Mickelson will begin his dual defence alongside 22 other players in the world's top 60 including Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler.
McIlroy heads the betting at 12/1 with Sky Bet while Mickelson - without a win since his Open triumph at Muirfield - is a 22/1 chance.
Royal Aberdeen - the world's sixth oldest golf club - is steeped in history but will be hosting a European Tour event for the first time. It's short at just 6,867 yards but, in true links style, the par 71 boasts plenty of strong par fours and testing par threes. Links specialist Tom Watson won the 2005 Senior British Open Championship at Royal Aberdeen with four-under and said later: "It's a very, very difficult golf course. It's a great links golf course. It has everything a links golf course should have." Asked if it reminded him of anywhere, Watson said: "I find it a little bit like Royal St. George's."
Wind is sure to be a factor and the Met Office website predicts winds of 13mph on Thursday which could gust to 21mph. It looks calmer on Friday (8mph) but could pick up again on the weekend. Rain is also in the forecast on Sunday although temperatures should be fairly pleasant at around 17 degrees.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Rory McIlroy (12/1): Rory admits that watching Phil Mickelson pull off the Scottish/Open double last year played a big part in him making the trip to Aberdeen. "I've heard some great things about the golf course and it’s good that the Scottish Open has gone back to a true links course." McIlroy's last experience of this event came at Loch Lomond (46h in 2009) but the American-style course proved poor prep for the Open Championship. He finally won his first event on British soil when landing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May but following up his 23rd in the US Open with a missed cut at the Irish Open added to the belief that he's not at his best on home shores. Apart from St Andrews, his links record is very modest too.
Justin Rose (14/1): Rose has played just one Scottish Open since 2005, finishing 14th in the weather-hit 2011 event at Castle Stuart. It's his current form that makes him a warm order here though. Following a May which brought a fifth at Quail Hollow and a fourth at the Players Championship, Rose ended June by finishing 12th in defence of his US Open crown and winning the Quicken Loans National at Congressional. There is a creeping doubt however. Does a recent Open record of MC-MC-44-MC suggest his game has become 'too American' and he finds it hard to adjust back to the nuances of links golf?
Phil Mickelson (22/1): Mickelson's last two starts in Scotland have ended in victory but even his most ardent fans will find it hard to predict a repeat of last year's golden fortnight. Although 2014 started with a second place in Abu Dhabi he hasn't posted a single top 10 since although, to be fair, there have been two 11ths and a 12th. Putting has been the big problem for Lefty and he was horrid on the greens in the US Open at Pinehurst and sits 107th in Strokes Gained - Putting this year. Will some Scottish air back in his nostrils kick him back to life again or will his struggles continue?
Jamie Donaldson (22/1): To see Donaldson at the same odds as Mickelson isn't just a reflection on the American's form; it's also a reponse to how well the Welshman is playing. In his last two starts he's finished fifth at both the Open de France and the BMW International Open and back in March the 38-year-old was runner-up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Donaldson's best performance in eight Scottish Open starts is his tied 10th at Castle Stuart in 2011.
Luke Donald (25/1): The Englishman's record in the Scottish Open is superb with a win at Castle Stuart in 2011 and, prior to that, a fourth, second and fifth in three starts at Loch Lomond. He's also shown he can handle links golf with a couple of top fives and an 11th in three of the last five Open Championships. As for recent form, Donald was third at Wentworth but on his last two starts he's struggled with a 49th at Memorial and a missed cut in the US Open at Pinehurst (77-69).
Lee Westwood (28/1): The good news for Westwood fans is that virtually all his best links form has come north of the border. He was the 54-hole leader at Muirfield in last year's Open, runner-up at St Andrews in 2010 and third at Turnberry in 2009. He's also been the round one leader in two of his last four Scottish Open starts and finished in the top 25 in seven of his last eight. Current form shows two missed cuts on his last two starts but the mood from the Westwood camp remains positive.
Ian Poulter (33/1): Poulter has some very solid Scottish Open form and had a run of five successive top 15s at Loch Lomond between 2003 and 2007. His superb short game and imagination around the greens has served him well in Open Championships too and he was third at Muirfield last year and runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008. The Ryder Cup star arrives in Scotland on the back of a 17th in the US Open and a sixth in the St Jude Classic so he has some strong credentials this week.
Rickie Fowler (33/1): The young Californian has already shown his links prowess with a 14th on his Open debut at St Andrews in 2010 and a fifth at Royal St George's the following year. He's a fine wind player, who can shape his shots and has been at his best this year in the big events with a third in the World Match Play, a fifth at Augusta and a second in the US Open on his last start.
A new venue usually throws punters a curveball although the fact that Royal Aberdeen can be categorised as a pure and tough links track helps narrow the field down.
With five-time Claret Jug winner Tom Watson winning here in 2005, it adds to the belief that this venue will suit those who thrive in links conditions so it's worth looking for players with strong recent Open records.
With a third at Muirfield last year and a previous second place at Royal Birkdale, Ian Poulter fits the bill and his current form is impressive too.
"8 tournaments in the next 10 weeks. Woke up this morning buzzing and energized to be going into this period feeling good," said Poulter on Twitter at the start of the week and, all in all, 33/1 seems decent odds for a player with 12 European Tour wins.
Watson comparing Royal Aberdeen to Royal St George's is interesting and helps fuel a bet on Rickie Fowler, who was fifth at the latter venue in the 2011 Open.
Fowler has done a great job of peaking for the majors this year and that's shown up in his build-up events too. The American was sixth in Houston the week before The Masters and also 13th at St Jude before his second place at Pinehurst.
He could be a good bet for Hoylake too but, for now, take him at 33s here.
Simon Dyson has some great form on links tracks and that includes a ninth at Royal St George's in 2011.
The Yorkshireman can boast recent top fives at Wentworth and in the BMW in Germany while he was 12th in this event at Castle Stuart last year.
Also third on the links of Kennemer in the 2013 KLM Open, Dyson appeals at 80/1.
Talking of top fives, Chris Wood memorably posted them in back-to-back Opens in 2008 and 2009.
The Bristolian, who was seventh in the Alfred Dunhill Links on his last start in Scotland, has been in good nick of late with three top eights in his last six starts so 60/1 looks good.
1.5pts e.w. Ian Poulter at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1.5pts e.w. Rickie Fowler at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Simon Dyson at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Chris Wood at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)