The linksland records of the leading contenders at the abrdn Scottish Open

The traditional Open Championship warm-up returns to The Renaissance Club this week, but which of the favourites has the most impressive record by the sea?

Best bet

Tyrrell Hatton each way at 18/1

Tommy Fleetwood each way at 30/1

This year's Scottish Open has already garnered plenty of attention, mostly thanks to of the sponsor's rebranding from the old Aberdeen Standard Investment to the new and rather enigmatic "abrdn".

If the corporate world has lost capital letters and four of the five vowels, what of the missing links on the golf course?

Ever since 2011 the tournament has transformed its position as a crammer's course for those golfers on a quest to win the Claret Jug.

Where it was once contentedly settled on the shores of Loch Lomond, undoubtedly lovely but land-locked and essentially not much use for any golfer with his eye on the seaside prize, now it is a coastal nomad.

Ten years ago Castle Stuart played host and the decision worked with five Open champions honing their skills a week before in Scotland; this week The Renaissance Club near Edinburgh will host for a third time.

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As ever, the thorny question arises of who in the field is a good fit for this very exacting form of the game.

We'll keep our focus near the top of the market and take a look at the top seven contenders, noting that American youngsters Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler are making their debut on linksland.

Jon Rahm: 8 starts - 4 top 20s - 3 top 10s - 2 wins

A fine record, but one which very definitely tilts one side of the Irish Sea - and not in the direction he might want ahead of this week and next.

Because the Spaniard has won the Irish Open at both Portstewart and Lahinch, finished tied fourth at Ballyliffin and was T11th in the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.

In start contrast, he was T44th in the Open at Royal Birkdale, T59th at Royal Troon, missed the cut at Carnoustie and did so again in his Dunhill Links debut in 2019. It's a very small sample, but four starts in England and Scotland are yet to reap him even one top 40 finish.

Xander Schauffele: 3 starts - 2 top 20s - 1 top 10

Not a lot to go on, but he closed with a 65 on his Open debut at Royal Birkdale for T20th, he also recorded that number in round two when T41st at Royal Portrush, and in-between he was tied second at Carnoustie.

Justin Thomas: 6 starts - 2 top 20s - 1 top 10

Very limited evidence, but the good news is two-fold. The first is that he's getting to grips with his second lap by the sea, something he very badly needed to do. It was a case of Freaky Friday in his first four efforts as he carded 73, 77, 80 and 77 at his Dunhill Links debut, and first three Open starts.

But, more recently, he notched 67-64-70-65 at The Renaissance Club when tied ninth in the 2019 Scottish Open and was T11th a week later at Royal Portrush.

Rory McIlroy: 27 starts - 12 top 20s - 11 top 10s - 1 win

Plenty of good stuff from McIlroy including a sparkling time of it in 2014 when he thrashed a 64 to take the first round lead in this event at Royal abrdn (finishing T14th), won the Open at Royal Liverpool a week later, and was second in the Dunhill Links.

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But it's also maybe telling that six of those linksland top 10 finishes have come on the Old Course at St Andrews: five in the Dunhill Links, one in the Open. Without the boost of one very favourable course record his figures look less solid.

Tyrrell Hatton: 25 starts - 12 top 20s - 10 top 10s - 2 wins

A very fine record and probably second only to Jon Rahm's. He even once said, when winning the Dunhill Links for a second time: "I wish we could play links golf every week."

There are two interesting trends within his record. The first is that he initially struggled by the sea, missing his first four cuts in the Open and his first two in the Dunhill.

The second is that he's played well in Ireland, but he's been poor in England and superb in Scotland. In fact, his last 12 starts north of the border have reaped nine top 15 finishes, six of them top fives, including both the wins.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: 22 starts - 7 top 20s - 2 top 10s

Not an especially good record for the Yorkshireman, partly caused by another long-term difficulty: in the Majors.

Even his count of two top 10s is rather dubious. One was fair enough, when tied eighth in the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down. But the other was a round of 16 effort in the 2016 Paul Lawrie Match Play.

Tommy Fleetwood: 27 starts - 14 top 20s - 9 top 10s

Born and brought up in Southport, where he occasionally pinched a cheeky hole or two at the far end of Royal Birkdale as a boy, it was on the linksland that he first made a European Tour impression, flourishing in the Dunhill Links.

But it's actually in the last four years that he has really come into his own by the seaside. Since the start of 2018 his log-book reads: second and fifth at the Dunhill Links, T23rd at Lahinch in the Irish Open, T12th at Carnoustie and second at Royal Portrush in the Open, eighth at Hillside when hosting the British Masters, and second after a playoff in this event last October.

READ MORE: Scottish Open: Is it a good predictor for success in the Open Championship?

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