We’re just one week away from the final major championship of 2023, and many of the Open Championship field will be teeing it up for this week’s Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick. Inform your Scottish Open predictions with course analysis and expert analysis from Bryan Nicholson.
I’m not sure we could ask for a better warm up to the Open Championship than the links at the Renaissance Club. Both visually and playability-wise, we are looking at similar tests here to Hoylake, with deep pot bunkering around the greens at Renaissance placing a firm emphasis on approach shots. As always with links golf courses, the weather will be a key factor in the next two weeks, but the draw can also play a big part. We can see this just from looking at scoring over the last few years at Renaissance club, with quite the range of numbers on display.
The first renewal here was won by Bernd Wiesberger on a total of -22 under par in benign conditions – a renewal played with wide fairways framed by sparse (but wispy) rough. That total then halved as Aaron Rai came in for the win with -11, in tougher conditions and with thicker fescues. As time moved on, fairways were pinched in and the rough was grown for the last couple of renewals, and Mother Nature was also on call. Xander Schauffele won here with a total of just -7 last year. In between that, Min Woo Lee carded -18 over four rounds in calmer waters to take the win.
If we take the scoring of the two editions in benign conditions vs. the scoring in the two years of rougher weather and look at the wind strength in each, it correlates perfectly with my ‘0.1 stroke per 1mph of wind’ rule. I wrote an article about this for Pinnacle, and explain it in depth in my book Angles and Edges.
The moral of the story is that weather dictates the scoring on the links, even on a relatively easier layout.
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Dates: July 13-16, 2023
Venue: The Renaissance Club, Scotland
Defending champion: Xander Schauffele
The betting market: Can the 'Scheff' cook up a storm?
Several of the world’s top players have smartly flown in already to prepare for the Open Championship, so don’t be surprised to see the contenders in North Berwick this week up there on the leaderboard at Hoylake. The list of big names includes Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler (leading the market at 7.26), defending champion Xander Schauffele (*17.91), Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Victor Hovland, and Jordan Spieth. However, it doesn’t end there. This is a very strong field, and contenders at the Renaissance Club in Scotland will likely be the ones to beat next week at Royal Liverpool. We want to look at a few outside bets though, with showery weather on the cards north of the border.
The course: Renaissance Club
The Renaissance Club is now playing 7,237 yards to a par 70, having previously played to a par of 71. The course has been made tougher each year, but big hitting coupled with accurate approach play to avoid the deep greenside pot bunkers is the brief. A hot flatstick always pays. The track reminds me a little of the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, as it incorporates similar features around the surfaces.
The Renaissance Club could be described as a relatively easy links venue, with wide landing areas and a rough that isn’t too punishing - although the fescues have been getting a little wispier and thicker, and now encroach on the expansive runways. A lot depends on whether the wind blows here. The large undulating greens running into deep pot bunkers are the main defence at Renaissance, and a nice short game touch is a bonus. Once again, the weather will dictate the scoring, and we want some wind and links specialists on our side if the forecast isn’t great.
Key metrics and premiums
The following are the main attributes needed to tame the Renaissance Club. I weigh these key metrics and plug them into my course fit model, which gives a course suitability rating for the players for individual courses. We are looking for a big hitter, with a strong approach game who is tidy around the greens – a bit of an all-rounder. Experience in windy conditions, on links or on Aussie Sand belt tracks is a big bonus.
• Total Driving
• Wind play
• Iron and approach play
• Par Breakers
• Lag putting
The value bets
Min Woo Lee (*43.56) at this stage is one of the most improved players in golf, and he’s demonstrating his quality now in the US. In terms of ‘horses for courses’, the former winner here showed what he could do on the track in a previous renewal to the year he picked up his win, so the clues were already there when he won at a huge price. Being a big-hitting iron flusher and fantastic in the short game department will certainly get it done. The Aussie comes in at 9.6/10 in my progressive form model, and has a course-fit-o-meter score of 9.5.
Robert MacIntyre (*103.0) will be looking to continue his progressive form line of 14-18-39, and carry on from his T4 finish in Himmerland, where he took a big lead early. His recent performance has earned him a progressive form score of 9.53/10 on my model. MacIntyre has a Renaissance Club course fit rating of 8.58, meaning he’s expected to gain around 2.5 shots versus a neutral course for his playing style over 72 holes. The Scottish links specialist is priced more than fairly, given it’s a strong field. The Scotsman also owns a couple of top 20 finishes at the Renaissance Club.
Rasmus Højgaard (*120.78) is another player who is overpriced given the perceived strength of the field, but Højgaard is on top of his game, with confidence running high following the win at Himmerland - a course offering some similar attributes to Renaissance. Rasmus secured a top 10 finish here last year to add fuel to the fire heading into a big week. The Dane rates 8.5 out of 10 on my course fit model, and he’s now pushing for a Ryder Cup berth. He’s 25th in greens hit in regulation (GIR) this year, following a season ending stat of 14th in strokes gained off the tee in 2022.
Can Cam Davis (*123.7) prove a good course fit? Stats would suggest so, with this big-hitting, birdie-making Aussie accustomed to links and playing in windy conditions. A 9.2 on the course fit model suggests the Renaissance Club will play to the course debutant’s strengths, and he comes into the week fresh off some nice progressive 33-17 finishes. Cam recently posted a T4 at the PGA Championship to prove he can contend with the best, and has a very similar profile to compatriot Min Woo Lee who absolutely loves this place.
I would also like to mention Aaron Rai and Garrick Higgo, who are definitely on the radar. Former course winner Rai is showing strong current form of 3-24-9, and Higgo has returned to some form as of late in the US. He does have one top 30 here at Renaissance, and I would favour him now given the current forecast for the week with windier and firmer conditions.