Rahm hunting third linksland win: Final round preview of the abrdn Scottish Open

The Spaniard trails the leaders Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry by one shot as he seeks the perfect preparation for next week’s Open.

Safe to say that Jon Rahm is in pretty good nick.

One month ago he led the Memorial Tournament by six strokes after 54 holes whereupon, to his obvious dismay, he discovered that he'd tested positive and was pulled from the field.

Officially, he withdrew. Unofficially, he would surely have been the winner.

Two weeks later, encouraged by the notion that karma might reward him for taking the disappointment on the chin he claimed a first major championship victory in the US Open at Torrey Pines.

This week he heads into the final round of the abrdn Scottish Open one shot behind the leaders Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Detry and the two-time linksland winner will be eyeing more success before he heads south to Royal St George's for next week's Open.

After his second round Rahm had gushed: "Those first 10 holes, I played incredible. I was 7-under through them and the three pars I has were short putts that could have been made. They were clear birdie chances. That's not always going to happen."

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At first glance, Saturday's round proved the point: he needed four more shots to circuit the course.

He opened with two early bogeys and made another late in the day at the par-5 16th to slow the progress of the five birdies he ticked.

His 2-under 69 left him on 13-under 200, one behind the leaders after Detry carded 68 and Fitzpatrick 67.

But in reality he found himself yet again almost in awe of his own form.

"It could have been better," he said, uttering words that might strike fear in the field for next week's Open. "Today was the same thing. Great ball-striking, great shots.

"Just a little unfortunate, missing a few short putts. I'm usually very, very solid inside five feet. That's usually my comfortable range. It's definitely unusual.

"But I'm making up for it with longer putts and really, really good shots out there. My iron play was exceptional today and it was great off the tee. Hopefully I can keep that going tomorrow and clean up the little mistakes and come out on top."

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It is far from a three-horse race. Last week's Irish Open winner Lucas Herbert grabbed solo fourth with a 64 to sit one behind Rahm. Linksland debutant Scottie Scheffler and Aussies Min Woo Lee and Wade Ormsby share fifth on 11-under. Veterans Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington, and the Americans Ryan Palmer and Xander Schauffele are among the nine-way tie for eighth on 10-under.

Let's take a look at the leading contenders.

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Admitted after his 67 that: "I didn't play as solid tee-to-green as I did the first two days. But just putted really well. Chipped it really solid, too.

"For me, the big thing is I feel like I've been pretty conservative around this golf course and just playing pretty safe, and I feel like that's been the smart thing to do and just not made the mistakes maybe that some others have."

Will that continue to work in the final round? The forecast is for rain, but not too much wind so he might be okay.

As highlighted in our preview, he has a linksland record that needs improving: to date he's made 22 starts by the seaside and has just two top 10 finishes.

On the other hand, he has a fantastic record with a 54 hole lead: he's 4-for-7 at converting the win and in all the three exceptions he finished second.

Thomas Detry

The Belgian said: "Didn't quite make the putts that I wanted to, but then got a good break on the fifth for an eagle and that kickstarted the day really. Managed to make the turn at 2-under and then played some really steady golf from there on."

He's aware that he has a reputation as a serial non-winner, the consequence of no less than nine finishes of second or third on the European Tour.

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He chose to look at the situation from a slightly different angle, arguing: "I've done really well already at some Rolex Series Events, Turkey and Nedbank. I feel like I've been up there a few times and know how to approach it. I'm going to play my game the same that I did today and hopefully the same."

He's had only one 54 hole lead on the European Tour, slipping to tied fourth in the 2019 Mauritius Open.

Jon Rahm

He's set to improve his links record this side of the Irish Sea (previously he had never made a top 40 in four attempts), but he's proved his seaside skills with two wins in the Irish Open, at Portstewart and Lahinch.

He's been second and one shot back after three rounds four times in his career and won once, at the 2017 DP World Tour Championship.

He has an adjusted average of 67.10 in his 10 final rounds in 2021. A repeat of that asks plenty of questions of the field.

The chasers

Herbert said: "Last week was brutal, just trying to sleep and function off the golf course with the lead and then once you get on the course it was another beast.

"So I didn't really do a hell of a lot Monday, Tuesday. Took it very, very easy and it would have been pretty easy to kind of look at that and feel like I was under prepared. But then I think it was the perfect preparation for me. I feel like the last two days I've been cruising out there."

Maybe he will ride the wave again on Sunday. He played well here last October and flew home with a final round 65.

Scheffler is a two-time winner on the second tier in the States, but is still looking for a first win at the top level and has quickly taken to seaside Scottish golf.

"I like links golf," he said. "I like how you have to be a lot more creative. I haven't hit a lot of stock shots this week. It would be nice to get my first win over here. Would definitely give me confidence going into next week."

READ MORE: Links golf: Do the top stars love the unique test or does it frustrate them?

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