DON’T RULE OUT MICKELSON
Phil Mickelson may have had problems of late but the left-hander is worth chancing at a hefty 20/1 in this week’s Scottish Open.
Colin Montgomerie is the only home player to win at Loch Lomond since the course made its European Tour debut in 1996.
And, after his win at the K Club on Sunday, punters may be attracted to the 28/1 about a second Monty triumph in this week’s Scottish Open.
But my idea of the best value Scotsman – and hopefully one with a winning chance – is Alastair Forsyth.
The 31-year-old from nearby Paisley has made the top 10 twice in his last four visits here so gets on well with the course.
His work with Bob Torrance this season has really paid off and nine top 25s make him one of the most consistent players around.
A worrying 80 and withdrawal from the Open de France recently halted his progress but he closed 68-69-70 at the K Club last week so should be ready for a home-soil challenge here.
Forsyth admits he likes the extra room off the tee at Loch Lomond and the stories about the fairways being narrowed this week need to be put into context.
“We don’t want to narrow it up too much because we have members who expect to play the day after the tournament ends,” said Ken Siems, the director of agronomy at Loch Lomond last week.
“Given the right weather conditions of high humidity, damp and no wind, which is predominantly what we get at Loch Lomond, they’ll shoot a good score.”
Forsyth was just one shot back after three rounds two years ago before finishing eighth so having gone through that he’d hopefully cope better in a similar situation.
With an in-form Monty likely to take a lot of the local focus away, Forsyth should be able to concentrate on his golf and at 125/1 he makes definite each-way appeal.
It’s always interesting to see how the Americans fare here as it’s so rare to see them play a European Tour event outside of the majors.
Phil Mickelson was seventh on his debut in 2000 but has disappointed since with finishes of 44th, missed cut and 35th between 2003 and 2005.
Missed cuts at Oakmont and Congressional will also deter punters – especially as they my be heavily related to his injured wrist.
But, in theory, Mickelson should love this American-style layout as the fairways are generous and make it a second-shot course. True, it hasn’t worked out for him so far so maybe he just uses it to acclimatise for The Open.
However, the “one eye on next week” theory hasn’t stopped him winning events before US majors – by 13 shots on one occasion! – so I’m not convinced why it should here.
If he was 10/1 favourite I’d say no bet. But 20s!!! In this field!!! This is the world number three we’re talking about and a player who wins an awful lot of golf tournaments.
Mickelson has so much natural talent that he can just turn it on when seemingly out of sorts so I’m prepared to take a gamble at those hefty odds.
One annual visitor from the States who has no such question marks when it comes to his Loch Lomond form is Tom Lehman.
Last year’s US Ryder Cup captain won this event in 1997, was runner-up in 2000, sixth in 2002 and has never finished worse than 30th.
Freed from the pressures of the Ryder Cup, he’s played some fine golf in recent months, finishing fifth at Colonial and sixth in the Travelers Championship in two of his last four starts.
Also tied 20th in the Buick Open last time, Lehman’s Greens In Regulation figures have been strong all year and he’s fourth in that category on the latest standings.
Although his team were hammered, you got the impression that Lehman thoroughly enjoyed much of his Ryder Cup experience and being back on this side of the Atlantic will put a real spring in his step.
He’s had plenty of success over here in the past and is playing well enough to suggest that he can make his mark at 66/1.
One interesting story this week is that Monty’s former caddie, Alastair McLean, is on the bag of new Spanish wonderkid Pablo Martin.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a brilliant college career at Oklahoma State and then made history by becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA European Tour when he claimed victory at the Estoril Open de Portugal in April.
Signed by Nike just before the US Open, Martin then proceeded to outscore Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal in their all-Spanish three-ball at Congressional.
Garcia and Olazabal, two of his idols growing up, missed the cut while Martin went on to finish a very creditable 30th.
Martin didn’t get into The Open so he’ll be giving this week his full attention and with MacLean’s local knowledge they could just pull off something special.
It’s been a good week for Scots flourishing in unlikely partnerships so hopefully Martin and MacLean (their names sound good together!) can do a Jamie Murray and Jelena Jankovic but perhaps with less pecks on the cheek.
Martin should feel at home on this American-style course so back this future superstar each-way at 125/1.
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