I’m not overly enthusiastic about everything the European Tour does, and I can’t pretend to be on tenterhooks for the Cyprus Showdown at the beginning of next month…
◾ Field cut to 32 and ties after 2 rounds
◾ Top 16 and ties progress to Sunday Showdown
◾ Scores reset after 36 holes
◾ Scores reset after Saturday’s shootout
The European Tour is breaking new ground with a first-of-its-kind format at the Cyprus Showdown.
? The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 12, 2020
That one begins on November 5 and it looks more of a damp squib than a fireworks spectacular but it’s impossible to fault the Tour’s response to the pandemic and the way they’ve altered the schedule and introduced so many really good events at such short notice needs to be applauded.
Whether we’ll see another Scottish Championship I don’t know but given we’ve lost the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, getting some more autumnal links action on the schedule following the Scottish Open a fortnight ago is a real plus.
Unlike we do at the ADLC, we won’t have to endure hours of live coverage of the amateurs or ‘celebrities’ so it’s a win – win and it’s an event I’m quite looking forward to.
The Torrance Course, Fairmont St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Par 72, 7,230 yards
Designed by Denis Griffiths, with the help of Sam Torrance and the late Gene Sarazen, the Torrance Course overlooks St Andrews Bay and the historic old town. With spectacular views across to the Angus coast and Carnoustie, the Torrance Course was constructed with many principles of links golf in mind, offering risk/reward opportunities at many holes.
Built as recently as 2001, and reconfigured some seven years later, the Torrance Course was used for the Scottish Senior Open between 2009 and 2014. Winning scores (over 54 holes) ranged from -4 to -17 – showing a typical wide variation for a wind-exposed set-up – and three Englishman won four editions there, with Barry Lane winning the title back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.
Here’s what Torrance said about the venue on the last occasion that it was used.
“It’s a fantastic links golf course with holes going in all sorts of different directions. The greens are out of this world and probably some of the best you’ll get in Scotland.
“The 17th is the signature hole and by far, in my opinion, the best on the course. You have the sea and out of bounds down the right and a lot of rough down the left so the tee shot is very tough and then when you get to your second there is more nasty stuff to play over so it’s a real test but a stunning golf hole.”
For more on the course, please see the video below.
Live on Sky Sports all four days – starting at 12:30 on Thursday
What Will it Take to Win the Scottish Championship?
As always with a links tournament, previous links form is a huge plus, so the usual rules apply; look at form at the recent Scottish Open over the last nine years, the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the Irish Open, last year’s British Masters from Hillside Links, the Open Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for clues. Links golf is quite unique and those events have all been staged on links courses.
Is There an Angle In?
Since the restart, many leaderboards are being dominated by the same names and for some reason, once they hit form, a lot of players have been holding their form over the summer and into the autumn.
Aaron Rai won the Scottish Open two weeks ago, a week after going close in Ireland, and the man that beat him in there, John Catlin, had won three weeks before in Spain. Sam Horsfield won twice on the European Tour in August, Coetzee went back-to-back, winning on the Sunshine Tour before the European Tour in consecutive weeks in September, and players holding their form since the restart has been something of a theme.
The English seem to be on a particularly strong run. Looking back at the BMW PGA Championship, four of the top six were English and given four of the six winners of the Seniors event here were from south of Hadrian’s Wall too, it would be no surprise to see an in-form Englishman lift the trophy on Sunday night.
How low will they go?
Relying on weather forecasts isn’t always wise but at this early stage, we look set for a benign week and if that’s the case, given Anders Forsbrand won here with a -17 total for three rounds back in 2012, we could see some really low scores.
Although he was the only player under-par, and he won by five, Mark Davis trailed by five after the opening round here in 2014 but he still sat second with a round to go and every other winner has trailed by no more than two strokes at any stage. All six course winners sat first or second with a round to go.
In benign weather, it’s very difficult to make up ground at a links venue and given the forecast and the record here of the seniors, it’s highly likely that a fast start will be essential and concentrating on the leaders very early on makes sense.
I get the impression that Matt Wallace is very nearly at the top of his game. He’s been bubbling under for a few months now, without every facet of his game clicking in the same week, but the big problem has been with the putter.
Since finishing fourth at the prestigious Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour in July, where he had a Putting Average ranking of third, and where he averaged 1.64 putts, he’s only once bettered 1.82 in seven starts (1.76 at the Scottish Open) and that makes him hard to fancy at a short price.
Lee Westwood opened up the Scottish Open with a scintillating 62 two weeks ago but Sunday’s 68 at Wentworth is the only time he’s broken 70 since. That’s an encouraging knock and he’s a terrific links player in decent form so he has to be respected. With current form reading 17-10-13-19-18, in a field lacking in depth, he’s a fair, if short price, at 13/114.0.
Eddie Pepperell is yet to win on a links track but it’s only a matter of time before he does. He was beaten in a playoff at Royal County Down in really tough conditions in the Irish Open in 2015 and he was also fourth behind John Rahm in that event at Lahinch last year. In addition to finishing fourth in the Scottish Open at Gullane in 2015, he was an unlucky runner-up in that event there two years ago when Brandon Stone sailed past him with a 60, he finished runner-up at Hillside when defending his British Masters crown a year ago and he finished sixth in the Open Championship at Carnoustie. And he also has seventh place finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links.
Scottish Open winner, Aaron Rai, started nicely at Wentworth last week but he faded badly on Friday to miss the cut and it’s difficult to know how he’ll fare this week. If refreshed following a weekend off, driving back up to Scotland could very well inspire him but winning a Rolex Series event is very much the pinnacle of his career to date and he may find it hard to bounce back again so soon.
With an abundance of links form, in-form Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, ticks a lot of boxes and I though 17/118.0 was fair given the strength of the field. Pepperell finished ninth in the Scottish Open two weeks ago and sixth at Wentworth on Sunday so he’s trending nicely.
My only other pick at this stage is Marc Warren at 69/170.0. Like Pepperell, he’s a terrific links player and he’s already won since the restart – at the Austrian open back in July. Last week’s missed cut at Wentworth was a poor effort but it was quite possibly a bit of a reaction to coming close to winning the Scottish Open the week before. Warren bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish fourth when a birdie would have seen him into the playoff.
If I add anymore selections before the off, I’ll post the bets to Twitter and update the preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter