Scottish Open predictions: Zalatoris to challenge Scheffler

Steve Davies
Will Zalatoris heads to Scotland this week in fine form
Will Zalatoris heads to Scotland this week in fine form

Nine of the world’s top 10 have flown into Scotland to tee it up at an all-star Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.

With FedEx Cup points on offer — as well as DP World Tour points — this co-sanctioned event has attracted a world-class field from both sides of the Atlantic, headed by the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. 

Newly-crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick will carry most of the British hopes, while Australia’s Min Woo Lee is the defending champion as the tournament returns to this venue for a fourth straight year. 

Zalatoris to continue hot streak 

Scheffler arrives on the Firth of Forth as the world No1, reigning Masters champion and in the form of his life. 

But another American to watch has to be Will Zalatoris, who boasts six top-six finishes in his last eight starts — and eight in total this calendar year. 

It is remarkable that the 25-year-old Californian has yet to win in 2022 given his form but it really does look only a matter of time. 

Zalatoris, who tops the DP World Tour rankings, has also finished in the top 10 in six of his eight major appearances, so clearly relishes a challenge, which is exactly what he will get at Renaissance. 

Thomas’ Renaissance record to fear 

One of Zalatoris’ near misses was at the US PGA Championship, where he was pipped in a play-off by Justin Thomas. 

And Thomas is another man who is not only in glorious form, but also clearly has an eye for this track.

In two previous trips to North Berwick — 20 miles east of Edinburgh and neighbouring the classic links layout, Muirfield — Thomas has shot six rounds in the 60s, nothing worse than 70, and has finished in ninth and eighth respectively. 

Yet while the two-time Major winner has the all-round game to go well in such a classy field, there are going to be many other contenders. 

Herbert has high hopes 

Lucas Herbert's short game could put him in contention
Lucas Herbert's short game could put him in contention

Among those with high hopes has to be Lucas Herbert, the Australian two-time DP World Tour winner who collected a first PGA Tour success last October when he earned victory in Bermuda. 

At the weekend he made a decent defence of his Irish Open title by firing three rounds in the 60s before fading on Sunday. 

But his work around the greens was exemplary and that stands him in good stead for some of Renaissance’s trickier approaches. 

He was fourth in this event last year and boasts a stroke average at the course of 68.08 — the second-best of anyone who has played the venue on each of its previous three runnings. 

Rai to upstage Fitzpatrick? 

Fitzpatrick is now a Major winner after his memorable triumph in the US Open, but British interest is abundant north of the border. 

Among the potential contenders at a big price is Aaron Rai, who also played well here last year when shooting three straight 68s after a slow start. 

Now a regular contender on the PGA Tour, Rai's best finish in 2022 was sixth in the Farmers Open in January while he also chalked up a top 10 at Mount Juliet last weekend.

While all eyes will understandably be on Fitzpatrick, the 27-year-old from Wolverhampton can deliver an equally promising challenge.

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