Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog
The final event on the European Tour, before next week’s Open Championship, takes place as a strong field make their final preparations at Castle Stuart. Open champion Ernie Els heads the field while Phil Mickelson will be looking to gain some momentum to take to Muirfield.
Castle Stuart should offer plenty of birdies this week in Inverness with players expected to take advantage of the wide fairways at the 7,193-yar 72 links. An accurate set of irons and a hot putter are two requirements here as the venue hosts the Scottish Open for the third consecutive year.
Alex Noren has consistently contended this season and the only surprise is the three-time winner has failed to get his hands on a trophy. The powerful Swede has finished in the top six no fewer than five times this year. Noren was in the title picture twice last month, in Germany and at the Nordea Masters, but both times had to settle for joint fourth spot.
Noren also came close to winning the Scottish Open 12 months ago when he shot rounds of 66 in the first two rounds. The 30-year-old could not find enough birdies at the weekend but still tied for third place. He recently said on Twitter that he loved Castle Stuart as a venue and a big performance can be expected with his recent form. Noren’s impressive stats include sitting fourth in stroke average so he has all the tools to go low in Inverness. Take Noren to pick up a long overdue win at a generous 33/1 top price with Coral.
Richard Sterne has returned to form this season after finally overcoming a series of crippling back injuries. The South African was back to his best earlier this year when he won the Joburg Open shooting 27-under-par. This win came immediately after finishing runner-up at the Dubai Desert Classic. Punters will be hoping this sequence can repeat itself on Sunday after Sterne warmed up for Scotland with second place behind Graeme McDowell at the Open de France.
Sterne’s performances have lifted him to fourth in the Race to Dubai and all facets of his game are currently on song. The 31-year-old is second on tour in stroke average in addition to seventh in putts per green in regulation. His effort in France has given him the belief to chase down a second victory of the year and although he’s not competed at Castle Stuart before, he tied for fourth at the Scottish Open back in 2007. Sterne rates a confident selection this week at 33/1 each way.
Shane Lowry made a big impression on his last outing, at his home course in Ireland, when he tied for fifth. The burly golfer handled the expectations on his shoulders confidently and no-one performed better on the greens as he led the field in putts per green in regulation. It was his fourth top ten of a consistent season for the two-time European Tour winner.
Lowry has certainly flourished on his two visits to Castle Stuart finishing inside the top 14 both times. The 26-year-old boasts the joint second best stroke average of 68.43 around the track, based on at least five rounds, so you would expect him to continue this form in favourable scoring conditions this week. He seemed very upbeat about the next fortnight of golf on Twitter and the links lover appears to have solid claims for a title tilt at 28/1 each way.
Soren Kjeldsen has already won in Scotland and the Scandinavian could put himself in contention for another victory this weekend. The Dane claimed the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles ten years ago and has since gone to win another two titles. His last success came back in 2009 but Kjeldsen will relish returning to Castle Stuart where he challenged 12 months ago before finishing joint fifth.
The 38-year-old got off to a slow start this season but is running into form this summer which makes him a tempting runner in this tournament. Kjeldsen finished inside the top 20 at the Irish Open and contended last weekend in France before slipping back to a tie for eighth. He was sixth for both driving accuracy and greens in regulation on his last start so if he can get the putter working should have plenty of scoring opportunities. At Coral’s 66/1 top price, Kjeldsen looks well worth an each way bet.
One of the brightest prospects around, Brooks Koepka, makes his first start since winning promotion to the main tour. The American earned the step up after landing his third Challenge Tour win of the season at the Scottish Hydro Challenge last month. Koepka has been a revelation this season with victories in Spain and Italy building on his maiden win last year in Catalunya.
The 23-year-old has no problem going low as he shot 24-under-par in June, at the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana, to win by an astonishing ten shots. His last five starts have resulted in two wins and three other top tens so this is a player whose confidence is at an incredible high. This was evident when the American followed up his most recent victory by winning the Open qualifier the next day at Sunningdale. With such exceptional form, including a recent triumph in Scotland, take Koepka to make a big impact here at 66/1 each way.
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