Welcome to the best back-to-back weeks on the pro golf calendar.
The Genesis Scottish Open, which begins early Thursday morning for East Coast U.S. golf fans, has attracted one of the strongest fields for a ‘regular’ pro tournament in the last 15 years. The longtime warmup to The Open Championship is now co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. That union attracted 14 of the top 15 players in the world.
They’ll face the Renaissance Club, a Tom Doak design measuring 7,293 yards and playing to a par-71 with four par-5s and five par-3s. Located next to Open rota mainstay Muirfield in North Berwick on the East Lothian coast, 20 miles east of Edinburgh, the course is a ‘modern links.’ It features four holes along the shore, some trees, mounds, elevation changes and slowish greens with the typical bumps and rolls we expect to see this time each year.
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As we work towards the Scottish Open fantasy golf picks, here are a few keys to success and more notes on what to expect:
- The weather forecast is quite calm and comfortable. Expect a gentle breeze on Thursday and Friday before a western wind blows 10-15 mph on the weekend. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s, with no significant rain in sight, make for ideal scoring conditions.
- Links courses are built for wind. Without it pros will flourish. Expect a winning score around 18-20 under.
- We kept it simple with the model this week, emphasizing SG: Off-the-Tee with bonus points for driving distance. SG: Approach received more weight than usual because results at Renaissance over the last three years proved its value.
- In all, it’s going to take a balanced effort to attack this course. With four reachable par-5s and a short par-4, expect plenty of fireworks.
- My advice for tournaments in Scotland: Wait until Wednesday evening to finalize your roster. Check the weather frequently.
Scottish Open Fantasy Golf Picks: Longer Shots
25. Tommy Fleetwood. Ranks top 5 in SG: Total at Renaissance Club over the last three years. He let victory slip away late in 2020 and finished T-26 in 2021. Also top-10 in scoring on all links courses. Has gained shots on approach in seven of the last eight tournaments.
24. Hideki Matsuyama. Might not think of Matsuyama as a links course specialist but he’s top 6 in SG: Total and Tee-to-Green on links layouts. Sharp outside 200 yards and ranks 8th in the field in SG: Approach over last 36 rounds (not including the 9.11 he gained in a T-4 at the U.S. Open).
23. Harold Varner III. Think he’ll prefer greens that are slower than what pros face each week on the PGA Tour. Hasn’t driven the ball lately, losing shots off the tee in four of the last five starts. But his iron game keeps sizzling; he’s 12th in SG: Approach and seventh in SG: Around-the-Green.
22. Viktor Hovland. Been a strange season for the Norwegian Forest Cat. Landed in the top 10 in three consecutive starts in February and March but hasn’t cracked it since. Still, he’s top-25 in SG: Off-the-Tee and Approach and Birdies or Better. Has a solid links résumé as well.
21. Robert MacIntyre. Form isn’t great but this is his National Open. Knows how to maneuver around this Doak creation and the East Lothian coast. Gained nearly eight shots on approach the last two years at Renaissance, finishing top-20 each time.
20. Collin Morikawa. Endured a disastrous Saturday in the U.S. Open and still ground out a top-5 finish. Gained 4.5 shots on approach at the Renaissance Club last year but putted horribly and finished T-71. Reports of his ballstriking demise are exaggerated. Feels like the LIV Tour rumors might have been a distraction but should be behind him now.
19. Aaron Rai. Benefited from Fleetwood’s collapse on the greens to win the 2020 Scottish Open here, played in the fall. Having a solid first season in the U.S. but perhaps is more comfortable competing in Europe. Has made five consecutive cuts and gained shots in every area but putting at the Canadian and Travelers. Solid all-around game with few weaknesses.
18. Cam Young. Should be able to bomb his way to many birdies. Top 5 in SG: Off-the-Tee, Driving Distance and Scrambling over the last 36 rounds. Leads the field in scoring on 450-500-yard par-4s.
17. Keith Mitchell. Here’s a peek inside my process. Each week I know Mitchell is playing well. Visually, it’s obvious. But sometimes I let his mediocre iron play (83rd SG: Approach) dissuade me from putting him in the rankings. Back-to-back top-10s reveal what he’s doing is working; he’s fifth in Scrambling, sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee.
16. Lucas Herbert. Best scoring average at Renaissance over the last three years, landing in the top 5 twice. Arrives in Scotland after an impressive top-10 finish in Ireland. Won in Bermuda last fall, finished top 10 in the Arnold Palmer and T-13 at the PGA Championship.
15. Max Homa. Let’s take a train to Value Town with young Max who was chillin’ and chuggin’ inside Dodger Stadium on an off week and is being disrespected in markets on both sides of the ocean. He has an elite driver (25th in distance in this field!) and ranks fifth in SG: Approach. Trusty looper Joe Greiner will guide him around these ancient links.
14. Jordan Spieth. Lackluster results of late but finds a way to get in the thick of the chase when he settles into linksland and can channel his inner creativity. Ranks top 10 in par-5 scoring and top 20 in SG: Around-the-Green and Approach.
13. Joaquin Niemann. Doesn’t have a ton of links experience but feels like his elite total driving and piercing iron shots should play well in the dense damp air where golf was born. Always looking for an excuse to play the young Chilean because he’s gained shots off the tee in every tournament since November. Iron play has been less consistent.
12. Jordan Smith. One of Europe’s best ballstrikers. Leads the DP World Tour in Greens In Regulation, ranks fifth in scoring and 15th in SG: Approach. Crushes the par-5s and it’s all produced five top-10s this season.
11. Haotong Li. Called me “bro” after I asked him a question at the Masters a few years ago, but not in a ‘hey, we’re cool way.’ Acted strange at the Presidents Cup in Melbourne. Has rediscovered his game, winning on the DP World Tour two weeks ago to escape from an ugly slump. Extremely talented and finished top-15 in the 2020 Scottish Open.
Scottish Open Fantasy Golf Picks: Best Bets
10. Cam Smith. Was pleasantly surprised to learn he’s a top-10 putter on average speed greens. If he can avoid the big miss off the tee should be set up for a sweet money run through golf’s native land these next two weeks. Ranks second in SG: Approach, second in Birdies or Better and fourth in Par-5 scoring.
9. Will Zalatoris. Prefers faster greens but won’t see those until he returns to the States. Enjoys the challenge and unpredictability of links golf. His power and trajectory control with his irons gives him a good shot to contend each of the next two weeks. Unafraid of the moment. Leads the field in SG: Approach and is fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee.
8. Ryan Fox. Hangs around the top of the leaderboard every week. He’s third in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green on the DP World Tour. Been a regular in the major championships the last few years.
7. Matt Fitzpatrick. The fresh prince of Brookline returns to action following his thrilling U.S. Open victory. The value has vanished. Still, play him if it feels good because he’s ninth in SG: Off-the-Tee, third in par-5 scoring, second in Scrambling and thrives banging his putts off the flagstick on slower greens. Also runner-up here a year ago.
6. Xander Schauffele. On a mini-heater right now, winning the Travelers and contending at the JP McManus Pro-Am. Finished 10th at the Scottish Open last year, gaining more than seven shots Tee-to-Green.
5. Jon Rahm. With kind scoring conditions expected, Rahm’s powerful and accurate tee shots should produce a few eagle chances (easy birdies) per day. Short game trended from awful to acceptable in the last month or so. Top-10 in the field in scoring on par-5s and 450-yard par-4s. Top-20 putter on slower greens, outstanding links history.
4. Sam Burns. Finished T-18 in his Renaissance Club debut last season, losing nearly two shots around the green but gaining everywhere else. Ran out of steam and missed the cut at the Travelers but there’s no reason to worry. Makes a strong case for PGA Tour Player of the Year if he can have a special fortnight in Scotland.
3. Scottie Scheffler. Golf fans have watched and appreciated the entire Scheffler skill set over the last six months. The baby fade tee shots, towering irons, confident short putting and, my favorite, his creativity and touch around the greens. His array of shots allows him to avoid bogeys on par-3s and 4s and generate birdies on par-5s (1st in field in Birdies Or Better, second in par-5 scoring). Also, T-12 here last year.
2. Mito Pereira. Another player priced for a bounce back after missing two consecutive cuts. His entire golf life has changed this year. He’s exempt for the biggest events in golf and played a busy schedule the last few months. He’s also third in SG: Off-the-Tee and 10th in SG: Approach in this star-packed field.
1. Justin Thomas. Back injury that forced him to WD from Travelers appears to be behind him; he and Jordan Spieth were seen playing rounds in Ireland. Top 20 in the field in each of the nine statistical categories we used to build this week’s model. Feels like the right formula for a course that demands and rewards a complete Tee-to-Green game. Finished T-8 here last year despite a rare off week with the irons.
Scottish Open Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Marcus Armitage, Adri Arnaus, John Catlin, Rasmus Hojgaard
Kurt Kitayama, Thriston Lawrence, Masahiro Kawamura
Edoardo Molinari, Victor Perez, Antoine Rozner, Callum Tarren