This year’s Scottish Open is likely to challenge Scott Hend more than any of the other five Australians in the field. It’s not Castle Stuart’s length that will faze the 43-year-old – he’s getting the ball out as far as 90% of the European Tour – and it’s certainly not his form.
The Olympic withdrawals of Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman have presented Hend with a golden opportunity. The world number 76 will head to Rio and compete at a Gil Hanse designed course that draws inspiration from Castle Stuart itself. Therein lies the challenge.
Having missed the cut at last year’s Scottish Open, Hend will be eager to make amends at a course that will essentially act as a precursor for August’s Olympics.
While Castle Stuart combines heavily contoured fairways with split-level holes, it’s renowned for its playability through wide fairways, and low scores should be expected.
Hend looms as Australia’s most likely to taste victory in Inverness this week, and is the nation’s frontrunner for the Race to Dubai at 24th. While his work off the tee should put him in good stead, his bunker play may let him down – recording just 48% in sand saves throughout 2016.
Jason Scrivener, Nathan Holman, Richard Green, Andrew Dodt and Brett Rumford will join Hend in trying to break Australia’s 21-year drought at the Scottish Open.
Scrivener is statistically one of Australia’s most well rounded players on the European Tour. Having collected three top-10 finishes in 2016, the 27-year-old’s first win seems imminent. A win at Castle Stuart would echo Australia’s most recent Scottish Open victor – Wayne “Radar” Riley – who recorded his first European Tour win in 1995 when he defeated Nick Faldo at Carnoustie.
Nathan Holman won the Australian PGA Championship last December, and is currently 38th in the Race to Dubai. The 25-year-old is averaging over 70% greens in regulation – the best of any Australian playing in this week’s tournament – and boasts a solid all-round game.
Richard Green will arrive in Scotland presumably looking to display the same form that saw him finish sixth at the Australian PGA Championship last December. While he missed the cut at last year’s Scottish Open, the 45-year-old generally enjoys the tournament and finished third in 2008.
Andrew Dodt famously launched himself back onto the European Tour with a win at last year’s Thailand Classic. Having recorded a fifth-place finish at the Mauritius Open in May, the 30-year-old will be hoping he can take some of that form into Castle Stuart.
It’s no secret links golf exposes and magnifies any weakness in a player’s short game. Lucky Brett Rumford is the third-best bunker player on the European Tour this year – notching up 75% in sand saves. He’s also rolling the ball well. The 38-year-old is putting better than 90% of players the European Tour. Rumford finished 11th at the Scottish Open in 2001 and will be eager to get back to Scotland after he missed last year’s tournament.
Castle Stuart also presents Scrivener, Green, Dodt and Rumford the opportunity to join Hend and Holman in qualifying for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Troon.