Scottish Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
PHIL MICKELSON will be hoping that history repeats itself when he tees up in the Scottish Open at Gullane - when he won the tournament in 2013, he followed it up the next week by winning The Open at Muirfield. The veteran American will also be hoping that the fuss surrounding his extraordinary mental meltdown in the US Open has finally died down.
The left-hander is one of the most popular players in the world but he drew widespread criticism at Shinnecock Hills when he raced after his golf ball and struck it while it was still moving. He later defended his actions, saying that he had considered doing it before and would do it again in similar circumstances. He clearly had little idea of the furore his actions had caused and has since apologised.
This will be his 15th appearance in the Scottish Open and the chances are that a large crowd will have forgiven Mickelson - although he can be certain that some spectators will remind him.
His dramatic 2013 playoff win over South African Branden Grace at Castle Stuart was his first victory on British soil, and the celebrations continued the following week when another magnificent performance secured his fifth major title in The Open Championship at Muirfield.
That victory completed a unique hat trick as he became the third successive Open champion to have played in the Scottish Open the week before lifting golf’s greatest prize, with Mickelson following Darren Clarke and Ernie Els to the title. Indeed, six of the past eight winners of the Claret Jug have played in the Scottish Open the previous week.
Mickelson’s success at the 2013 Open was his last until his unexpected victory at the WGC Mexico Championship this season, a win that revived his hopes of securing a place in Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup team for the match again Europe in September.
The American said: “When I won the Scottish Open in 2013 I said at the time that I had proved to myself that I could win on the links, and it has gone down as a special win for me for a lot of reasons. It’s a tournament that I’ve enjoyed playing in for a number of years, and to take what I learnt that week at Castle Stuart and use it to help get my hands on the Claret Jug after one of the best rounds of my career, was really a fantastic experience.
“I don't think there is a better way to get ready for a major than playing the week before and getting into contention and coming out on top just gives me more confidence. I can’t wait to get back to Gullane and play in front of the Scottish crowds again. I enjoyed the experience back in 2015 and being so close to Muirfield makes it feel a bit like a homecoming.”
Gullane is a magnificent links course but it is unlikely to suit Mickelson, whose driving accuracy is among the worst on the PGA Tour.
With The Open at Carnoustie looming, it is no surprise that the Scottish Open has attracted the best field of the year on the European Tour, with Masters champion Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Luke List and promising Australian Cameron Smith joining the finest players in Europe.
The tournament is the latest in the Rolex Series, with a staggering prize fund of $7m up for grabs. Not that Reed needs the money. In 2014 he became the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, going on to make his first appearance in the Ryder Cup later that year, before he famously defeated Rory McIlroy in the Sunday singles at Hazeltine National in 2016 as the United States won the coveted trophy for the first time in eight years.
He secured his first major in April after holding off late charges from compatriots Rickie Fowler – who secured the Scottish Open title at Gullane in 2015 - and Jordan Spieth to don the Green Jacket.
Reed said: “I’m excited to add the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open to my schedule again. It is always played on some fantastic links courses, and provides a true test ahead of The Open. This will be the third year in a row that I have played this event and I always enjoy it, so I’m looking forward to getting to Gullane.”
Home fans would love to see a Scot in the mix, and they will believe that Russell Knox has a real chance after his terrific performance at the recent Open de France and victory at the Irish Open. Knox is not enjoying the best of years on the PGA Tour, but he is a ferocious competitor and would love nothing more than to win the trophy on home soil.
But surely the man to beat will be Justin Rose, who could finish the summer as world number one. The Englishman is enjoying another fabulous season, during which he has discovered a quite remarkable level of consistency. He has always been a fantastic ball striker, but has now added a world-class short game to his armoury.
Rafa Cabrera Bello, of Spain will be defending his title. The tournament was won in 2016 by Alex Noren, in 2015 by Rickie Fowler, in 2014 by Justin Rose, in 2013 by Phil Mickelson, in 2012 by Jeev Milka Singh and in 2011 by Luke Donald.
To Win: Justin Rose. How can you not pick him?
Justin Rose. Just a class act
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Looking to defend his crown
Matt Kuchar. Another week, another big pay cheque
Louis Oosthuizen. One of the best swings in the game
Cameron Smith. Brilliant young Australian
Thomas Pieters. Still looking to kick-start his season
Russell Knox. Will be inspired by home crowd
Paul Dunne. A really impressive player, with no weaknesses
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