Eight of the top 10 ranked players in the world rankings will tee it up at this week’s co-sanctioned Genesis Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.
The traditional dress rehearsal for the Open Championship has been bolstered since the DP World Tour entered into a strategic alliance with the PGA Tour, and as a co-sanctioned event, features a stellar lineup with big-name players from both tours, with no fewer than 12 major champions in attendance.
Just Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith, ranked two and seven in the world respectively, are not in the field, with Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Jordan Spieth, ranked one through 10 respectively, all set to appear.
The Renaissance Club is a modern, hybrid-links course, designed by Tom Doak, and opened in 2008, and both Cameron Smith and Collin Morikawa went on to win their Open Championship titles after taking part in the Scottish Open at Renaissance the week prior.
In total, there are five Irish players in the field, with headliner McIlroy joined by Shane Lowry, Seamus Power, Padraig Harrington and Tom McKibbin. McKibbin, who claimed his maiden professional victory at the Porsche European Open in early June, is the only one of the five who’s yet to secure his exemption into Royal Liverpool next week, and with the final three Open Championship spots set to go to the highest non-exempt finishers this week, will be hoping that he can join Darren Clarke, Alex Maguire and the aforementioned quartet to compete for golf’s oldest championship.
Not since Graeme McDowell triumphed at Loch Lomand in 2008 has an Irish name been inscribed on the Scottish Open trophy, though Darren Clarke is a three-time runner-up including most recently in 2010, but these were all before the European schedule was reformed to ensure that the Scottish Open would be held the week preceding the Open Championship.
Renaissance hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for McIlroy, who’s making his third appearance this week following a missed cut in 2021 and a T34 in 2019 when he controversially opted to skip the Irish Open at Lahinch in preparation for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. The world number three is scheduled to play his opening two rounds with defending champion Xander Schauffele and two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas, with Thursday’s round due to get underway at 07:59.
Power, coming in off a T-13 finish at the John Deere Classic last weekend, plays alongside 2021 champion Min Woo Lee and reigning WGC Matchplay champion Sam Burns two groups behind McIlroy. Having gone somewhat off the boil after an impressive start to the season, Power, by his own admission, has played his way out of likely Ryder Cup reckoning in recent months, but is hoping that a strong finishing round at TPC Deere Run, that saw him make 10 threes in 18 holes, proves the ignition switch for a late charge to put himself firmly back in the conversation for Rome.
Harrington is the first of the trio of Irish stars to hit the links in the afternoon wave when he joins Charley Hoffman and recent British Masters winner Daniel Hillier on the first tee at 12:30. A links specialist, Harrington firmly believes that he still has what it takes to compete with players several decades his junior and showed as much when finishing fourth in the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and has a subsequent PGA Tour top-10 and a T27 finish at the U.S. Open to bolster his claims.
Tom McKibbin follows in the group behind alongside Englishman Callum Tarren and former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjørn. Since winning the European Open, McKibbin has struggled, missing the cut in back-to-back starts since. But with his playing rights secured for next year and well positioned to make the all-important top-60 which would see him safely through to November’s DP World Tour Championship, securing a spot in next week’s Open must be high on the priority list along with a late push for one of 10 PGA Tour cards on offer for the top-10 not already exempt on the Race to Dubai rankings.
Lowry is the last of the Irish to get his opening round underway at Renaissance, and he’s in the afternoon’s marquee group alongside Scheffler and Hovland. With just one missed cut in his last 13 starts – a stretch that includes three top-20 finishes in major championships – Lowry has been among the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour circuit, though his stellar play has yet to translate to a victory, but Lowry’s consistency pales in comparison to Scheffler’s. The world number one has just the one victory in 2023, but you have to go back to the CJ Cup last October for the last time Scheffler has finished outside the top-10 in a professional event and the bookmakers make him the pre-tournament favourite to top the field this week.
Other notables in the field this week include Ludvig Aberg, the young Swede who’s made waves on the PGA Tour since turning professional in May, and has emerged as a serious contender for one of Luke Donald’s captain’s picks for the Ryder Cup, past Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler and reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark.