Scottish Open First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Thomas For a Fast Start
Scottish Open First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back For a Fast Start
The Scottish Open is an event that is steeped in history and has been a staple on the European/DP World Tour since 1972. The event has since gone on to become a Rolex Series event, offer players the last chance to get in the Open Championship and also gives those already qualified a chance to warmup on what is generally a similar links test to what they will face the following week.
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Scottish Open First Round Leader Strategy
The weather and AM/PM split are not of concern to me at this stage, as there doesn't appear to be a better part of the day to tee off. Gusts pick up from 10am onward, so some of those teeing off really early in the morning may have some easier conditions, but there isn't much in it, and the fact it gets slightly warmer as the day goes on might negate that anyway.
To get a better idea of whether a wave needs to be targeted, what type of score we might require and more, here are the First Round Leaders, their scores, and their team tee times over the past three years. The Scottish Open only moved to the Renaissance Club in 2019, and given the changes in venues and their styles over the years, it might get a bit noisy if we look back further.
On that, I don't think it hurts if a player has had success in this event in the past, on a different course, but I would use it as a bonus, rather than reason to bet them in this market.
- 2021 - Jack Senior - 64 (-7) - 9:30 AM off the 10th tee
- 2020 - Lee Westwood - 62 (-9) - 12:27 PM off the 1st tee
- 2019 - Nino Bertasio (1:20 PM), Matt Kuchar (1:10 PM), Edoardo Molinari (1:30 PM), Romain Wattel (12:50 PM) - 63 (-8)
Interestingly, only Jack Senior last year teed off in the morning and led here. Lee Westwood teed off just after Midday, at the start of the afternoon wave, and all four leaders in 2019 teed off around the 1pm mark.
I don't expect it to be so heavily weighted this week to the afternoon wave, as the weather looks fair all day, but this is something worth keeping in mind if you normally play early starters in the First Round Leader Market.
Who in This Field Has Started Fastest on Tour This Season?
Here are the 10 fastest starters in the field based on the current Round 1 Scoring Average in the 2021/22 PGA Tour season. The DP World Tour does not carry these Round 1 Scoring stats, so some more manual research is required in that department. Any of my DP World Tour selections in this market will have been researched to see if they start fast generally, but I have excluded them from this list for organisation purposes.
- Matt Kuchar - (1st overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.00) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Sony Open)
- Joaquin Niemann- (3rd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.35) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Genesis Invitational)
- Patrick Cantlay - (5th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.50) - Low Opening Round - 62 (American Express)
- Scottie Scheffler - (6th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.61) - Low Opening Round - 63 (RSM Classic)
- Wyndham Clark - (7th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.68) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Canadian Open)
- Cameron Smith - (8th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.69) - Low Opening Round - 64 (RSM Classic)
- Cameron Young - (10th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.89) - Low Opening Round - 63 (RBC Heritage)
- Joel Dahmen - (11th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.90) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Wells Fargo)
- Keith Mitchell - (12th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.95) - Low Opening Round - 62 (CJ Cup)
- Max Homa - (14th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.13) - Low Opening Round - 66 (RSM Classic)
What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?
The average leading score here after Round 1, over the past three renewals, since moving to Renaissance Club currently sits at 63, and I am happy for that to remain the target this week! With just three renewals of this event being held at this golf course, we do not want to put too much stock into past results, but with a 62, a 63 and 64 all being good enough to lead at this event over the years, it makes sense to split the middle.
The Favorites in This Week's First Round Leader Market
Jon Rahm +2600
Jon Rahm has held nine first round leads in his career, but they have all come in North America, which may seem surprising given his prowess when dropping down to the DP World Tour grade, but he doesn't do it often.
Expand the parameters to within two of the opening day lead, and Rahm has been in that position 33 times in total, including his 9 first round leads. 7 of those 33 occasions have come in DP World Tour events, and in one instance at the Open Championship back in 2019.
He sat one back after round 1 at an Irish Open in the past, and two back after round 1 of this event 12 months ago, and there is no reason he can't start fast again.
Rahm made his debut in this event 12 months ago, and opened with round of 65, 67 and finished in 7th place, so this looks like a course he may enjoy again.
Scottie Scheffler +2600
Scottie Scheffler also played in this event last year, and played well - finishing T12.
The American opened with a 72, but then shot a round of the day 63 on Friday to make the cut, and backed it up with rounds of 67 and 69 over the weekend.
I could envisage Scheffler working on some facets of his game in this event, as he knows he is a contender next week, and that could lead to a slower start, akin to what we saw last year. This is purely guess work, but I do think the more experienced links player, in Jon Rahm makes the bigger appeal of the two.
Justin Thomas +3000
Thomas is my first selection this week.
Matt Fitzpatrick +3300
Matt Fitzpatrick is coming off the biggest win of his career, as he took down the U.S. Open at Brookline, the same course where he won the U.S. Amateur.
Fitzpatrick is also playing in the JP McManus Pro-Am this week where he has looked rusty, and he now has a week to prepare for his home Open.
His strong course form here might suffer for a year, as he adjusts to being a top-10 player in the world and a major winner, and that is enough at least to put me off in this market.
Last year he opened with a pair of 66's and closed with a pair of 67's and that was a really strong week, but I do think he may struggle to go two or or three lower than that in his opener this week.
If I am wrong, I am happy to be at this price, especially with Justin Thomas such an obvious candidate.
Xander Schauffele +3500
Xander Schauffele has flipped the script in recent weeks, finally winning a full-field event with a cut again, and he is now in search of his first major win, at the Open Championship.
Xander is currently leading the field at the JP McManus Pro-Am and is the likely winner at time of writing, and I suspect he could go well here again this week, as he looks to prepare for the final major of the year.
Schauffele finished T10 here last year, with bookend rounds of 67 and a Saturday 66 leading the charge, and we know he can start faster than that in general.
21 times in his career, Schauffele has been within two of the first-round lead, including at the Travelers where he opened with a 63 to sit one back of Rory McIlroy and JT Poston in round 1, before going on to win.
He is 4 for 4 in made cuts in the Open Championship, and while he didn't start fast he finished 2nd at Carnoustie in 2018, so we know he can play well in this part of the world, when you add that to his performance in this event here last year.
I won't be on him, but he makes a ton of appeal.
First Round Leader Selections
Justin Thomas +3000
Justin Thomas has played here twice, in 2019 and 2021 and he finished 9th and 8th respectively on those visits.
On course debut he opened 67-64 and closed with a Sunday 65 and last year he posted bookend rounds of 65, with the opening round putting him within one of the first round lead.
Thomas has been within two of the opening-day lead 35 times in his career, so we know he starts fast, and a bonus is that two of those came at the Dunhill Links (2013) where he missed the cut, and the Open Championship (2017) where he also missed the cut.
Clearly then he has a love/hate relationship with this style of golf, and his rounds at this course suggest as much, but he can obviously get hot for a round at a time on this style of course, and with benign conditions, he should be able to shoot another low one on Thursday.
Justin Thomas will tee off #1 tee at 13:25 pm with Hideki Matsuyama and Tommy Fleetwood
Ryan Fox +6600
Ryan Fox is in the midst of a ridiculous run of form, and while it will have to end soon, links golf has always been considered a strength for him, and while he hasn't shown that on this course yet, I believe he can.
In his career, Ryan Fox has been within two of the opening-day lead 33 times in total, and three of those occasions have come in 2022, all of which have been leads or co-leads.
Fox opened with a 63 to lead the Ras al Khaimah Classic by one in February, an event he won wire-to-wire, and at the British Masters he opened with a 66 to co-lead. Fast forward to last week, and Fox opened with a 64 at the Irish Open to lead by one, in an event he eventually finished 2nd in.
The New Zealander has four top-3 finishes in his last six starts and eight top-15 finishes so far in 2022 in total, so he's arguably the hottest player on the DP World Tour right now.
We might have missed the boat on him, as this course hasn't been kind to him yet, and his run has to stop somewhere, but at 66-1 I will chance him going low on day one, just one more time.
Fox has also led an Irish Open by one after day one (2018), sat two back of the opening-day lead of an Open Championship (2019), and also sat one back after opening with a 64 at the Dunhill Links (2019) so he clearly likes a fast start on these layouts.
On this course he has been poor so far but he was 4th and 6th in his two Scottish Open starts before it moved here, and his current form should counteract his previous struggles on this layout.
Ryan Fox will tee off #1 tee at 12:55 pm with Billy Horschel and Sungjae Im
Haotong Li +1000
This one is a bit rogue, as we never know what to expect from Haotong Li at the best of times, but coming off an emotional win makes that equation even harder.
I am willing to bet that this is a true resurgence for Li, rather than a flash in the pan, and while I think at some point over the week fatigue might catch up with him, a low opening round is surely not out of the question.
11 times in his career Li has been within two of the opening-day lead, and three of those occasions have come in 2022, and one last October at the Dunhill Links.
He led the BMW International Open from the outset and went wire-to-wire for victory on his last start, and two weeks prior he also opened with a 67 to co-lead the Porsche European Open, which was also in Germany.
A 67 left him one back at the Catalunya Championship in May and a 64 at the Dunhill Links last October saw him co-lead there as well, so in recent starts at least, he's been a strong starter.
That co-lead at the Dunhill Links becomes even more impressive when you consider he'd missed the weekend in his past 14 starts, and it was a reminder that he likes links golf.
In 2017, Li shot a final-round 63 to climb into 3rd at the Open Championship and before his comeback at the Dunhill Links last year, he had already finished 5th in that event as well in 2018, so they are encouraging signs. Add in the fact he was 14th here in 2020, and opened with a round of 68 and closed with a 66, there's scope to suggest that now, back at something close to his best, he can fire a lower one this week.
Haotong Li will tee off #10 tee at 7:55 am with Ewen Ferguson and Joaquin Niemann
Matt Kuchar +10000
I love Matt Kuchar in this market, especially when you consider his links pedigree.
They are quite some time ago now, but in Kuchar's first three starts at this event, he finished 10th, 2nd and 4th, and while none came on this course, I still find these results promising.
Add in the fact that on his course debut here in 2019, he opened with a 63 to share the lead with three others, and all of a sudden, that plus his recent form suggests he is a prime candidate for this market.
Kuchar ranks 1st on the PGA Tour in Round 1 Scoring Average this season, and over his career, he has been within two of the first round lead a whopping 60 times - so he knows how to start the week off right.
In 2017 he had a legitimate chance to win the Open Championship, but for some back-nine heroics from Jordan Spieth, and he opened that week with a 65 to co-lead at the start of the week. That is two round 1 co-leads on links golf courses then, and with that previous effort here in 2019 and his recent run of form, I am happy to chance him doing it again here at Renaissance.
Kuchar opened with a 67 at both the Valero and the PGA Championship recently to sit two back of the round 1 lead, and he has been within three of the lead at the Memorial, Phoenix Open, Valspar Championship and the Sony Open already this season as well.
Clearly then Kuchar is getting it rolling on a Thursday more often than not, and while he will have to go a couple lower to really threaten here - at 100-1 he looks a big price to do just that.
Matt Kuchar will tee off #1 tee at 14:05 pm with Adri Arnaus and Alex Noren
Alexander Bjork +15000
Alexander Bjork has been within three of the first round lead six times dating back to last May, and while I do not normally widen the parameters that far, it does look beneficial to do so on a links test, where a bounce here or there could change everything.
Bjork is 5 for 5 in made cuts at the Scottish Open, and at this course he opened with a 63 in 2020, which unfortunately was one shy of Lee Westwood's first-round lead.
Bjork shot that same number in round 3 last year, and even when 62nd on debut, he opened with a 66 so he can clearly piece a low one together at The Renaissance Club.
The Swede has led or co-led three times after round 1 on the DP World Tour, so he does have some experience, but of posting the lowest number on day one, and that is always a bonus.
Alexander Bjork will tee off #10 tee at 8:45 am with Grant Forrest and Keegan Bradley
Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!