TPC Deere Run, the host venue of this week’s John Deere Classic, has seen some incredible moments, most notably 19-year-old Jordan Spieth’s first victory as a pro, a 59 from Paul Goydos, and three consecutive victories from upcoming U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker.
However, what it also is hosting this week is a tournament featuring only two players in the top 40 of the Official World Golf Rankings.
Therefore, our attention this week shifts to Renaissance Club in Scotland, where six of the world’s top 11 will be in attendance at the Scottish Open. With The Open Championship looming next week, it will be difficult to tell whose mind is where, but the talent on hand will be undeniable.
Our power rankings this week feature a mix of PGA Tour heavyweights and some of the more intriguing European Tour regulars.
This week, we start with the defending champion:
15. Aaron Rai
For the first time in his career, the 26-year-old from England enters a tournament as the defending champion, taking the 2020 title in a playoff over Tommy Fleetwood. It should be noted that no one has won the Scottish Open in back-to-back years.
Heck, only two players have won it multiple times period: Ian Woosnam (1987, 1990, 1996) and Ernie Els (2000, 2003). No disrespect to Rai, who hit the top 70 of the OWGR after a strong showing at a February WGC event, but he is nowhere near the caliber of either of those guys.
Still, he was T12 at last week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and a third place finish at a different Scotland-hosted event last October shows an exceptional level of comfort in the birthplace of golf.
Odds to Win: 100-1
World Ranking: 107
14. Marc Warren
It would be a tremendous story if Scotland native Marc Warren is holding the trophy at week’s end, but simply being front page material does not make it more of a reality.
The 40-year-old has not been his best version in 2021, but has frequently come agonizingly close to win his home Open, with two third-place finishes and two fourth-place finishes, with the most recent of the latter coming just last year, where he was one of just five players in the field to shoot all four rounds under par.
His focus should be solely on Renaissance, as he has not yet qualified for next week’s Open Championship.
Odds to Win: 300-1
World Ranking: 195
13. Brandon Stone
Stone took the 2018 Scottish Open by four strokes when he closed with a 10-under 60. Nope, that is not a typo, that is actually what he closed the event with.
The 28-year-old from South Africa has not won on the European Tour since, but did take a tournament in Africa in April, and was runner-up to Paul Casey at January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, one of the better events in Europe.
However, Stone has just a T40 and five missed cuts in his last six starts worldwide, really making him the epitome of “hit or miss”. If he gets going, watch out.
Odds to Win: 250-1
World Ranking: 99
12. Richard Bland
Not often are professional golfers playing the best golf of their career in their late-40s, but that has been the case for the 48-year-old Brit Richard Bland.
At 105th in the world rankings, Bland is on the cusp of the top 100 for the first time in his career, and among his last four starts worldwide are a win, a T3, and a T4.
If his name sounds familiar to our American readers, it is because Bland surged into the 36-hole co-lead at last month’s U.S. Open, becoming the oldest player in U.S. Open history to hold that position through two rounds.
He struggled on the weekend to finish T50, but just being relevant in his second career U.S. Open (previous was a missed cut in 2009) is a tremendous sign.
Odds to Win: 125-1
World Ranking: 105
11. Lucas Herbert
The 25-year-old Aussie is coming into Renaissance off a dominant three-stroke victory at last week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, his second career European Tour victory.
Herbert has been playing very well as of late, netting two top 20s in PGA Tour events last month. He has also shown the ability to string together back-to-back quality starts, finishing T4 at last year’s Scottish Open the week after finishing T7 at the Irish Open.
He also outlasted a tremendous field at the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, a victory that was overshadowed in the U.S. by the untimely death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.
Odds to Win: 60-1
World Ranking: 55
10. Branden Grace
The 33-year-old from South Africa is playing some of the best golf of his career at the moment, with his last two starts resulting in a fourth-place finish at The Memorial Tournament and a T7 at the U.S. Open.
Grace also won a February PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico, although the strength of field was so weak that the victory netted him just the 14th most world rankings points in his career.
He has nine career European Tour victories, and among his three top 15s at the Scottish Open is a playoff runner-up to Phil Mickelson in 2013.
Odds to Win: 40-1
World Ranking: 61
9. Ian Poulter
The recent results from the 45-year-old Englishman Poulter may not be especially impressive in a vacuum, but he has seemingly found a way into the mix repeatedly at PGA Tour events in 2021, a result of making 14 of 18 cuts on the season.
Poulter finished T6 here last year after opening 67-66, and was T14 in 2019.
With eight career top 10s in majors without a victory, Poulter is likely feeling a sense of urgency before his window closes, meaning he should be exceptionally motivated to play well at Renaissance. He has traditionally been a player who runs on momentum.
Odds to Win: 80-1
World Ranking: 56
8. Justin Thomas
It is difficult to have a lot of confidence in JT’s chances in Scotland this week, given that he has been in an extended slump since winning March’s THE PLAYERS Championship.
His eight consecutive finishes outside the top 10 is very un-Thomas like. Still, he is the world No. 3 and played well in his only Scottish Open start, posting a T9 at Renaissance in 2019.
It helps that he currently ranks fifth on the PGA Tour in both strokes gained: approach-the-green and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
Odds to Win: 14-1
World Ranking: 3
7. Tommy Fleetwood
Our U.S. readers would not be surprised to learn that Fleetwood finished runner-up at this event in its last edition, as that seems to be where he finishes in nearly every event held on U.S. soil. Despite being a perennial bridesmaid on the PGA Tour, the 30-year-old Englishman is a five-time European Tour winner and former Race To Dubai champion.
On the PGA Tour this year, Fleetwood has been unable to shake that one very high round, and currently is on a streak of nine consecutive starts with at least one round of 74 or higher, with four of those having a round of 76 or worse.
Fleetwood’s attention is likely to be at Royal St. George’s, where he will be attempting to better the runner-up performance he posted at the most recent Open Championship (his Scottish Open runner-up happened in a year where The Open was cancelled), not that he should be entirely forgotten this week.
Odds to Win: 33-1
World Ranking: 33
6. Robert MacIntyre
You would think the Scots would have an advantage at their own Open, but historically, that has not been true, as just one native has taken the title: Colin Montgomerie by three strokes at Loch Lomand in 1999.
Granted, Scots have not been especially relevant on the world stage in recent years. Enter: Robert MacIntyre, the 24-year-old from Oban, who at world No. 51, is the only native of Scotland in the field ranked inside the top 100.
MacIntyre finished a respectable T14 here last year, and has had a number of quality outings on the PGA Tour this year, with a T9 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and a T12 at The Masters. If someone is going to follow in Montgomerie’s footsteps, MacIntyre is the best bet.
Odds to Win: 50-1
World Ranking: 51
5. Rory McIlroy
The current state of the game of the former world No. 1 and four-time major champion is a mystery. He has been so absurdly up and down the past year. More recently, he won the Wells Fargo Championship in May, and was T7 at last month’s U.S. Open, but he was also a disaster at both The Masters and PGA Championship, and was a surprising T59 at last week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
It is difficult to tell how much Rory’s mind is going to be on Scotland this week, and we’re not even sure what it means if his mind is one-hundred-percent focused. As usual, though, the best of the world No. 11 is the best of anyone.
McIlroy has played this event just twice in the past five years, finishing T34 in 2019 and missing the cut in 2017.
Odds to Win: 66-1
World Ranking: 51
4. Xander Schauffele
The time to REALLY watch the world No. 5 will be at next week’s Open Championship, as the 27-year-old has a penchant for getting himself into the mix at majors. Even making just his third career European Tour start, and first at the Scottish Open, this week, though, Schauffele rarely finishes outside the top 25 in any event these days.
Schauffele is still looking for his first victory anywhere since January of 2019, but in his last five outings, he has four finishes of T14 or better, including a solo-third at The Masters.
Xander currently boasts the third best scoring average on the PGA Tour, the second best of anyone in the field this week (Rahm).
Odds to Win: 12-1
World Ranking: 5
3. Bernd Wiesberger
The Austrian with eight career victories on the European Tour set the Scottish Open scoring record in his 2019 victory, shooting a second-round 61 before finishing 22-under.
A career year for the 35-year-old in 2019 was followed up by a thoroughly underwhelming 2020, but Wiesberger has been back to playing well in 2021, winning May’s Made In HimmerLand Presented By FREJA, and was T5 in his most recent start.
He has been as high as 23rd in the world rankings, and currently sits at lucky No. 59.
Odds to Win: 40-1
World Ranking: 59
2. Tyrrell Hatton
Currently, there are only two players in the top 10 of the world rankings who hail from outside the United States: world No. 1 Jon Rahm and world No. 10 Hatton.
The affable Brit has won six times on the European Tour, and boasts one of the best iron games on the planet, currently ranking 15th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green. That ball-striking was most on display in Scotland at the 2016 Scottish Open, where he finished second to Alex Noren.
In addition, Hatton was T4 in the 2014 edition of this event, T9 in 2018, and T14 in 2019.
He tends to run hot-and-cold, but it is difficult to tell just where he is at the moment. Two starts ago, he was among the runners-up at last month’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree, which he followed up with a disappointing U.S. Open, where he played well on Thursday, but missed the cut after an abysmal Friday 78.
We would tend to believe that he will be confident this week at Renaissance.
Odds to Win: 22-1
World Ranking: 10
1. Jon Rahm
The world No. 1 will be making Renaissance his first start since winning his breakthrough major at last month’s U.S. Open, which was one start since he had accumulated a six-stroke advantage through three rounds at The Memorial before a positive COVID-19 test forced him to withdraw.
Rahm has finished in the top 8 of all three 2021 majors, and before overthinking this and wondering how his game will translate across the Atlantic, keep in mind that he has seven European Tour victories as well.
He has not played on the European Tour since 2019, but his last four starts there have resulted in WIN, WIN, CUT, 2.
Odds to Win: 7-1
World Ranking: 1
Next Five: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Collin Morikawa, Jacques Kruyswijk, Guido Migliozzi, Scottie Scheffler