By TOM LaMARRE
The PGA Tour is visiting the United Kingdom for the next two weeks, with the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland, kicking things off beginning on Thursday.
That will lead into the 151st Open Championship, the fourth and final major of the season, next week at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, Wirral, England.
Xander Schauffele (pictured) of La Jolla and San Diego State is defending champion this week in Scotland, having held off Kurt Kitayama of Chico and UNLV by one stroke in a breakthrough event for the two biggest golf tours in the world last year.
“It was great to win the first event co-sanctioned between the two tours (the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour),” said Schauffele, who has won seven times on the PGA Tour and also captured the Gold Medal Summer Olympic Games in Japan. “It was just an incredible week. The tournaments Genesis puts on have always been elite and I knew this was going to be no different.
“I don’t know if it was love at first sight (with links golf), but I do enjoy playing with winds blowing 30 (miles per hour) and playing the ball down closer to the ground. You know, it’s OK to sort of aim 100 yards away from a bunker you can’t go in and just play from there.
“It’s just fun golf for me.”
Schauffele is No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings, and also in the field this week from the top 10 are top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, fifth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England and 10th-ranked Jordan Spieth.
The Scottish Open dates to 1972, when Neil Coles of England claimed the title, and other former champions include Graham Marsh of Australia, David Feherty of Northern Ireland, Ian Woosnam of Wales, Craig Parry of Australia, Jesper Parnevik of Sweden, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, Tom Lehman, Lee Westwood of England, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, Ernie Els of South Africa, Retief Goosen of South Africa, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer of Germany, Luke Donald of England and Phil Mickelson.
Other players in the field who have won the tournament in recent years and are playing this week include Justin Rose of England, Rickie Fowler, Aaron Rai of England and Min Woo Lee of Australia.
Another player to watch is Rasmus Hojgaard of Denmark, who came from six strokes back in the final round last Sunday with a 64 and then beat Nacho Elvira of Spain with a par on the sixth playoff hole to win the DP World Tour’s Made in Himmerland tournament at Himmerland Farse in Norway.
This field is loaded.
1. Xander Schauffele, United States – The defending Genesis Scottish Open champion beat Kurt Kitayama by one stroke last season for his seventh PGA Tour victory, but has not won since. However, Schauffele has nine finishes in the top 10 this season and 14 in the top 25, including second in the Wells Fargo and ties for 10th in both the Masters and U.S. Open.
2. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked Scheffler, the 2021 Masters champion, captured the Players Championship in March for his sixth PGA Tour victory and has seven top-10 results since in his last eight starts, including second in the PGA Championship. In his only start in the Genesis Scottish Open last year, he shot 73-72—145 and missed the cut by two shots.
3. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory won the CJ Cup in South Carolina for his 23rd victory on the PGA Tour and has six finishes in the top 10 since, including solo second in the U.S. Open and a tie for second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and has five consecutive finishes in the top 10. Surprisingly, this is his first appearance in the Genesis Scottish Open.
4. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The fourth-ranked Cantlay hasn’t won since capturing the 2022 BMW Championship, but he has seven finishes in the top 10 and 12 in the top 25 on the PGA Tour this season, including a tie for second in the Shriners and a tie for ninth in the PGA Championship. He closed with 69-67 to tie for fourth in the Genesis Scottish Open last season.
5. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The eighth-time pro winner has won the Hero World Challenge and the Memorial Tournament since December, and has eight finishes in the top 10 this season, including a tie for second in the PGA Championship and a tie for seventh in the Masters. The fifth-ranked Hovland shot 74-73 and missed the cut in the Genesis Scottish Open last year.
6. Rickie Fowler, United States – Coming off his sixth PGA Tour victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, beating Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin in a playoff, Fowler has eight finishes in the top 10 and 14 in the top 20 this season, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open. He opened with 69-69, but shot 71-75 to tie for 47th in the Genesis Scottish Open last year.
7. Tyrell Hatton, England – The 10-time pro winner, including in the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational for his only PGA Tour victory, has seven results in the top 10 this season and 11 in the top 20, including solo second in the Players Championship. Hatton opened with a 68 and finished in a tie for 24th in his first appearance in the Genesis Scottish Open last season.
8. Jordan Spieth, United States – The 10th-ranked Spieth seems to be back on his game by finishing in the top 10 six times this season, including a playoff loss to Matt Fitzpatrick in the RBC Heritage. A 13-time winner on the PGA Tour after winning the RBC Heritage last season, he opened with a 68 and shot 66 in round three to tie for 10th in the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open.
9. Min Woo Lee, Australia – Claimed one of his two professional victories in the 2021 Scottish Open, beating Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Lee has six results in the top 10 this season and nine in the top 20, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open, a tie for sixth in the Players and a tie for second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
10. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The ninth-ranked Fitzpatrick, after winning the U.S. Open last year, claimed his second PGA Tour victory and ninth as a pro in the RBC Heritage in April. That is one of his 10 finishes in the top 20 this season, including a tie for 10th in the Masters. In his first start in the Genesis Scottish Open last year, he shot 66 in round two and tied for sixth.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Shane Lowry, Ireland; Max Homa, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Justin Thomas, United States; Justin Rose, England; Sam Burns, United States; Adam Scott, Australia; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Rasmus Hojgaard, Denmark; Corey Conners, Canada; Wyndham Clark, United States.
1. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden – A two-time winner on the Swedish Golf Tour after a brilliant amateur career, Aberg showed what he could do by tying for fourth in John Deere last week.
2. Aaron Rai, England – Has posted a T-3 in Canadian Open, a T-7 in Houston and a T-9 in Rocket Mortgage this year, and one of his six victories as a pro came in the 2020 Scottish Open.
3. Sahith Theegala, United States – Winner of the 2022 QBA Shootout with Tom Hoge finished T-2 in the RSM Classic, T-4 in the Farmers and was solo ninth in the Masters this season.
4. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – The 10-time winner as a pro has seven top-25 result this season, including a T-3 in Joburg Open. Closed with 66 for T-16 in Scotland last year.
5. Brandon Wu, United States – Winner of 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Championship finished T-9 recently in RBC Canadian Open. Opened and closed with 67 last year to tie for sixth in Scotland.
For first round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard