Golf Preview: Scottish Open & John Deere Classic

With the Open on the horizon, the eyes of the golfing world are already turning to Britain and this week’s Scottish Open is the now annual warm-up to the main event.

The Scottish Open struggled to attract the big names up to 2011 when they switched to using Links courses to help players prepare for The Open and since then the competition is now seen on a different level.

The fact that American stars such as Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner and Patrick Reed are in town, highlights the regard the event is now held in.

Fowler, a former winner of the Scottish Open in 2015, is a huge fan of the event and is delighted to be back.

“Links golf is probably my favourite, and any time I get a chance to play it, we do. I’m looking forward to this week here, just because I feel like I know I can play well on links courses. I’ve been playing well this year and everything has been trending in the right direction, being in contention at the first two majors,” he said.

“Like I said, I enjoy playing the week before the majors just to get myself ready to go, check off some boxes. That way there’s less prep the week of a major. You just go out and get ready on the golf course and go play.

“The Scottish Open has been great for me going into The Open, and with my best finish in The Open coming after, when I played my first Scottish Open up in Aberdeen. I think there’s a lot of good that can happen these next two weeks.”

The tournament is being played on the Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, which has never held the event before.

Swedish star Alexander Noren – who is now in the world’s top-ten – is the defending champion, and many of Europe’s top stars are in town with Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson teeing up.

With Australian Adam Scott also competing, it is one of the best fields you will find outside a major. The last remaining qualifying places are also on offer at Dundonald.

Over in America and the John Deere Classic is also offers one of the last chances for someone to book their place at Royal Birkdale next week.

One place is on offer at the TPC Deere Run, but he will not have to worry about how he gets to the North of England at such short notice as a charter flight awaits them Sunday night. It is provided by Deere Classic officials each year to fly them across the Atlantic.

The field in America is diminished by those who are preparing for The Open next week but there are still some big names including defending champion Ryan Moore.

2015 Open winner Zach Johnson is using the event for his Open preparations before heading to England next week.

Johnson has dropped to 74th in the world after a poor year, but he is hoping to get himself going at the John Deere.

“I like the mentality of having my back against the wall,” he said. “I thrive in that position.”

Johnson points to the putter as the biggest problem. He is outside the top 65 on the Tour in strokes gained putting, a rarity for someone who has been considered one of the game’s top short-game artists.

“I’ve got to make more putts,” he admitted. “I know what to do. That darn word of ‘patience’ certainly is paramount.

“That’s been my emphasis over the last so many odd weeks is just making some putts and trying to score. My game is fine. It just hasn’t surfaced yet.”

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

Scottish Open is a great tournament – for me I am picking three out for this one, I like Brandon Grace a lot – I think he could go close. And then two Englishman. Young Ty Hatton is ready to bounce back to form and I can see Ross Fisher figuring really highly here.

In America, I like Zac Johnson a lot and would love to see him perform well ahead of the Open.

The Bookie says…

We caught up with BetVictor’s Jack Milner – an expert in the golfing markets

Jon Rahm dominated a strong field at the Irish Open, winning at Portstewart by 6 shots and cut to 7/1 with BetVictor to win a first major in 2017. Rahm, now ranked the 8th best golfer in the world, shot a record-breaking -24 and now heads to the Open Championship as the 14/1 from 20s third favourite for the Claret Jug.

He is the fourth favourite behind 11/1 market leaders Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson but it was interesting to see Alex Noren attract support at bigger prices, bidding to make it 9 first-time major winners on the spin. The Swede won the Scottish Open 12 months ago and is 16/1 to win back-to-back Titles at Dundonald. Compatriot Henrik Stenson lifted the Claret Jug at Troon last summer and I expect Noren to go close at Royal Birkdale; the recent Wentworth winner is too big at 40/1 for Open Championship success next week.

Noren is too short at 16/1 this week and I much prefer the chances of Ross Fisher at more than double the price. Fisher has a terrific record playing links golf and has been the model of consistency this season; and has posted top-ten finishes in 6 of his last 8 events on tour.

He lost in a playoff at the Alfred Dunhill Championship back in 2008 and he finished second in that event again last year. He was seventh in this event two years ago boasts a terrific links pedigree that should see him hopefully reward each-way support. At bigger prices, I can see Scot Martin Laird out-perform his odds of 66/1, whilst another that thrives on conditions is Paul Dunne who played well in snatches during last week’s Irish Open.

Across the pond, there’s depleted field for the John Deere Classic where defending champion Ryan Moore should, much like Alex Noren, will go close to winning back-to-back Titles. Moore has suffered with his form this season on tour, and is therefore priced at a perhaps tempting 33/1 with BetVictor.

With injury doubts however, he must be overlooked and likewise with those above him in the market. Daniel Berger, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Kisner are all winners on the PGA Tour already this term, whilst the pair of Brian Harman and Charley Hoffman have suffered several near-misses despite being the model of consistency.

The value looks to be with those further down the market, and I like Bubba Watson at an eye-catching 50/1. Bubba has suffered with his game since returning from a strict diet that saw the two-time major winner shed 20lbs, however there was a lot to like about his recent top-ten finishes at both the Zurich Classic and the Memorial.

His scrambling should help him around the Illinois course, and that key component should put Chad Campbell in the frame after a recent upturn in fortunes. Campbell goes well at the course, firing a 62 here three years ago, and ranked number one on tour in scrambling looks over-priced at 66s.

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