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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Five Players to Watch at the Scottish Open

SportsThe Five Players to Watch at the Scottish Open

Many of the players who will compete in the Genesis Scottish Open, which begins on Thursday at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, will focus of course on winning the golf tournament.

But they will also be looking ahead to the next tournament, the British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland, the final major of the season. The Renaissance Club and Royal Troon are links courses, with their own subtleties. It should make for two weeks of compelling golf.

Here are five players to watch at the Scottish Open:

MacIntyre, 28, looked like he would win last year’s Scottish Open after closing with a birdie to remember.

From about 215 yards away, his ball on a pathway through the rough, MacIntyre nailed a 3-wood to within four feet and made the putt to go up by one. As it turned out, however, he lost to Rory McIlory, who birdied the last two holes.

“I’m delighted with the way I played,” said MacIntyre, who was trying to become the first native Scot to win the tournament since Colin Montgomerie in 1999. “But this is a sore one to take right now. It’s a dream for any Scotsman to win the Scottish Open.”

MacIntyre, ranked 44th, collected his first victory on the PGA Tour at last month’s Canadian Open. What made it even more special was that his father, Dougie, was his caddie.

“I just can’t believe I’ve done it with my dad on the bag,” he said. “The guy’s taught me the way I play golf.”

He missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month and at the Rocket Mortgage Classic two weeks ago, but he tied for 16th at the Travelers Championship.

How can everyone not pay close attention to McIlroy this week?

A month has gone by since McIlroy, 35, squandered a two-shot lead down the stretch at the U.S. Open, failing to end his 10-year drought in majors.

Where is his game? Better yet, where is his head?

At least he has one thing in his favor: He knows how to play this course.

“This is right up there with the best of them,” McIlroy told CBS after his comeback victory over MacIntyre. “I thought if I could birdie one of the last two and get into the playoff, that would be a bonus. To finish 2-3 in these conditions … it feels absolutely amazing.”

McIlroy tied for 5th in the 2016 British Open, the last time it was held at Troon.

Sooner or later, Thomas, a two-time major winner who is in his prime — he is only 31 years old — will make a run at another major title.

It’s hard to believe, but Thomas, ranked 26th, hasn’t won since he captured his second P.G.A. Championship in May 2022. His play in the majors has been especially poor. Over his last nine starts, he has missed the cut five times and posted only one top 10, a tie for eighth in this year’s P.G.A.

Thomas missed the cut at the U.S. Open with rounds of 77 and 74, but showed progress by tying for fifth at the Travelers Championship with four straight rounds in the 60s.

His performances at the Scottish Open have been mixed. He missed the cut two years ago and tied for 60th in 2023, but recorded top 10s in 2019 and 2021.

Scotland will always be a special place for Thomas, who made his first start as a professional in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2013.

Matsuyama has been having an outstanding year, but like everyone else he has been overshadowed by the world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Ranked No. 13, Matsuyama, 32, has recorded five top 10s in 14 appearances, highlighted by his victory in the Genesis Invitational in February, when he shot a 62 on Sunday to erase a six-stroke deficit.

In that tournament, held outside Los Angeles, Matsuyama, the first Japanese man to win a major (the 2021 Masters), hit back-to-back approaches on the final nine to within tap-in range.

While he did not play well in this year’s Masters or P.G.A. Championship, he tied for eighth at the Memorial Tournament and finished sixth in the U.S. Open.

He has had his troubles at the Renaissance Club. In 2018, he tied for 83rd, and four years later tied for 109th.

Nonetheless, he hopes to join the list of Japanese players who have been victorious on the DP World Tour in 2024. They include: Rikuya Hoshino at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, Keita Nakajima at the Hero Indian Open and Yuto Katsuragawa at the ISPS Handa — Championship.

Kim, 22, missed the cut last month at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and that might not be the worst thing in the world. He was playing for the ninth week in a row.

A few days off probably couldn’t hurt.

At the Travelers Championship in late June, he again showed why he is one of the most promising young players on tour. Paired with Scheffler, he stayed with him the whole way.

The highlight was the 10-foot birdie putt he knocked in on the 72nd hole to tie Scheffler. Kim made it after protestors had run on the green and caused a short delay.

Despite a poor second shot in the playoff, which, essentially, handed the tournament to Scheffler, Kim focused on the positive.

“I played really good just to force a playoff,” said Kim, who has three PGA Tour victories. “I’m taking this as a huge leap in the season.”

Kim, ranked 17th, has played extremely well at the Renaissance Club, finishing third in 2022 and tying for sixth in 2023.

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