For the second straight week we have an Australian defending champion on the DP World Tour. This time Min Woo Lee out to hold on to the Scottish Open title, which this year becomes a co-sanctioned event.
Like the Barbasol Championship being played in Kentucky this week, the Genesis Scottish Open represents the most significant step in the growing strategic alliance between the PGA and DP World Tours on the tournament front.
The Scottish version of professional golf’s biggest union, unlike the Barbasol, not struggling in terms of field quality in any way, although as is now par for the course in professional golf there is some controversy on who makes up the field.
Three players – Ian Poulter, Justin Harding and Adrian Otaegui – who have jumped to Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Series will be allowed to play after a British court delivered a stay in their action against the DP World Tour regarding bans. (More HERE).
Meanwhile, 16 of the top-20 on the world rankings will tee it up on a modern take on links golf in preparation for next week’s 150th staging of The Open Championship.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Despite already owning a European Tour title at the time, last year’s Scottish Open provided Min Woo Lee with his breakout moment on the world stage, one that came amid a weekend packed full of Aussie success.
RIGHT: Min Woo Lee holds the trophy aloft in 2021. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Having watched Lucas Herbert win the week prior in Ireland, Lee fired a bogey-free final round of 64 to enter a play-off that he would go on to win on the same Sunday that Steph Kyriacou won her second LET title and Cam Davis captured his maiden PGA Tour win.
Lee’s 64 included a run of six straight birdies that elevated him to 18-under-par and a sudden death showdown with Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry.
Clearly not fazed by the occasion or more experienced combatants, Lee fired at the 18th pin on the first play-off hole and rolled in a 10 foot birdie putt to take out an emotional win that he foresaw the night prior.
"It's crazy. I dreamed of it last night and to the people back home staying up late watching me and sending me messages, this one's for you too," Lee said.
COURSE: This year marks The Renaissance Club’s fourth time as host of the Scottish Open, with the reputation of Tom Doak’s design only growing with each passing year.
Sitting next to famed Open host Muirfield, that will welcome the AIG Women’s Open in a few weeks, in East Lothian’s Archerfield Estate, Renaissance opened in 2008 having been carved from a pine forest that although mostly decimated was retained in some parts for strategic challenge and a unique feel for seaside golf.
Doak’s work went up a level when land was acquired from the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers next door and three new holes were fashioned by the water.
Measuring 7,293 yards this week and playing to a par of 72, wind is unsurprisingly a major factor in scoring each time the best players on the planet visit Renaissance, with the winning scores over the three previous years varying from 22-under to 11-under.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With the quality of field assembled it would be easier to make a list of players unlikely to be a factor, representing the benefits of the co-sanctioning agreement and Renaissance as a tune up venue for the final men’s major of the year.
As the current holder of the trophy, Min Woo Lee is of course worth keeping an eye on this week.
Primarily focusing his efforts on America and the PGA Tour so far this year, Lee has missed more cuts than he has made and last finished in the top-10 when opening his year at the Fortinet Australian PGA at Royal Queensland.
But the good vibes of last year will help, so too the return to links golf that suits the West Australian’s game down to the ground.
Of the other Aussies, our top ranked male Cam Smith makes his first appearance since missing the weekend at the U.S. Open and will be keen to get in some Scottish reps ahead of the major that he has arguably had the most trouble with in his career.
Owning a best finish of T20 at The Open, Smith is now one of the best players in the world and a regular major contender who should find Renaissance to his liking.
RIGHT: Defending the Claret Jug next week, Collin Morikawa gets back to links golf this week. PHOTO: David Cannon/Getty Images.
Marc Leishman is a clear lover of links play and before he returns to The Old Course where he went so close to claiming the Claret Jug, he will like his chances here despite a missed cut in his last start at the Travelers Championship that came as something as a surprise after his share of 14th at the U.S. Open. Meanwhile, Lucas Herbert was a respectable T9 at his Irish Open defence and was fourth at Renaissance last year.
Previewing this event last year, we noted Scottie Scheffler as a player to keep an eye on with a game suited to the home of golf and since then he has won a major and ascended to the top of the world rankings and makes for an interesting study this week at the same venue he was T12 last year.
Jon Rahm is another returning after a good showing here in 2021 and in some decent form of late.
The Spaniard was joint 12th at the U.S. Open and got some extra European practise at the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland.
Of those teeing it up at Adare Manor over two days, Xander Schauffele continued his red hot form as he chases his first major success.
Schauffele’s last official start netted another PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship having not missed the top-20 since The Masters in April, the American starting millionaire McManus’ event with an eight-under round.
Also playing at Adare Manor, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have immersed themselves in links golf in the lead up to The Open and having both recently recorded wins are likely to feature this week.
Joining Spieth and Thomas on their Irish sojourn, Rickie Fowler opened the McManus event with a round of five-under and is a past champion here that could offer some more value for those that are fond of a flutter. Fowler has certainly not being in great form of late, but he is a lover of links golf and Scotland that could conjure something up here this week.
And don't sleep on Kiwi Ryan Fox who is in incredible form of late, and has a game that should be at its absolute best on a links venue. No stranger to playing in the wind, and when players with as much power as Fox possess are confident, very low scores are in the offering.
72-HOLE RECORD: 260 (Brandon Stone, 2018)
18-HOLE RECORD AT RENAISSANCE: 62 (Lee Westwood, 2020; Benjamin Hebert, Andrew Johnstone, Andrea Pavan 2019)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Min Woo Lee (2021), Wayne Riley (1995), Peter O’Malley (1992), Craig Parry (1991), Graham Marsh (1973)
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Min Woo Lee, Scott Hend, Cam Smith, Lucas Herbert, Marc Leishman, Jason Scrivener and Maverick Antcliff.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 5pm – 9:30pm – Featured Group & 9:30pm – 3:30am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 5pm – 9:30pm – Featured Group & 9:30pm – 3am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 505 9pm – 11pm & Fox Sports 503 11pm – 2:30am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 9pm – 2:30am)
*AEST, check local guides