Scottish Open betting preview: Luke Donald backed to impress at Gullane
By Ben Coley
Last Updated: 08/07/15 10:56am
In the absence of Rory McIlroy, defending champion Justin Rose is favourite for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open which once again switches location as some of the country’s finest links layouts get their chance to shine.
This week we’re at Gullane, just down the road from Muirfield in East Lothian and considered to be right up there with its more famous neighbour, firmly part of Scotland’s golfing coast. It promises to provide an old-fashioned, how-it-was-meant-to-be test, perhaps similar to that produced by Royal County Down for the Irish Open little more than a month ago.
All of which means that the likes of Soren Kjeldsen and Eddie Pepperrell, first and second in Ireland, must go on any shortlist along with the in-form Max Kieffer, whose form all year has been that of a man on the cusp of a first European Tour title. But heading my selections is a man who has plenty of those in the bag already – Luke Donald.
The Englishman won this title at Castle Stuart four years ago when very much at the height of his powers. As with so many, he fell into the trap of changing too much in a bid to further improve and keep up with the modern golfing powerhouses against whom he’s forced to compete, but those experiments have gladly been abandoned as he returns to what he does best.
Donald knows he has to pick and choose his schedule accordingly and his top-10 finish at the Travelers Championship last time was another eye-catching step in the right direction, one which came with the added bonus of an Open Championship spot which of course means so much to him, particularly having played well at St Andrews five years ago.
Here in the Scottish Open, Donald gets to take on those who can outdrive him by 50 yards on courses which don’t necessarily give them an advantage for doing so and his record – six top-20 finishes in six starts – speaks for itself. There’s no reason he can’t build on that record here at Gullane and as a player who thrives whenever he returns to Britain and played nicely enough in Ireland he looks a good price.
Of the favourites, former Scottish Open one-two Phil Mickelson and Branden Grace have obvious appeal along with links-lovers Shane Lowry and Rickie Fowler, with the latter the most tempting of this quartet. Forgive Fowler that awful display in the US Open and there’s plenty to like about his profile, although I suspect he may just chug along into 10th or so with eyes fixed on St Andrews.
Instead, take a chance on Thomas Bjorn putting four rounds together for what would really be the first time this season.
The Dane finished on the fringes of the top-10 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and has flirted with leaderboards since, but truth be told he’s been a pale shadow of the man who qualified for last year’s Ryder Cup side on merit. Still, I don’t think Bjorn’s days as a force on the European Tour are over just yet and he’ll relish another switch in venue having not taken to Castle Stuart before faring better at Royal Aberdeen.
The veteran has numerous top-10 finishes in the Open Championship including one next door at Muirfield and having endured a difficult season he’ll be eager to get the competitive juices flowing in advance of the Open.
A glance at Padraig Harrington’s overall form since he won the Honda Classic in a play-off suggests he’s completely gone off the boil, but there have been sufficiently encouraging signs to take a chance on the two-time Open winner at huge odds.
Remember, while ultimately he finished outside the top-40 in the Irish Open, Harrington did go clear on day two and traded as favourite for the tournament before one mistake followed another and his prospects of winning his national title ended.
Harrington has won the week prior to the Open several times, albeit as a short-priced favourite for the Irish PGA Championship, and this at least goes to show that he values competitive links practice as the best way to prepare for the Open. It wouldn’t be a total shock to see him step up and three top-30 finishes from four starts in this event since it left Loch Lomond demonstrate what he’s capable of.
Others to note include Ryan Palmer, the American whose form over the last 18 months has been particularly good. He may just benefit from being away from the spotlight he’s so often under in the US and a decent effort in last year’s Dunhill Links shows that he’s got enough about him to embrace the challenge golf in Scotland can provide.
Finally, Rafael Jacquelin could be one for a top-20 finish having managed six of them in this event and returned to some sort of form in Paris, especially given that so much of his best work comes under similar conditions.
The Frenchman won in Spain a couple of years ago when it was firm, fast, windy and difficult and he was in front early at the Dunhill Links last season before fading, so while victory may be stretching things he could be a factor at some stage.
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