down cross

Fowler can power to his second Scottish Open triumph

Links-lover is oozing short-game assurance

Rickie Fowler could play with a swagger this week
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Starts 7am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am

Palmer's top tip
Rickie Fowler 8-1

Jon Rahm highlighted in the Irish Open last week how US Tour stars have the scope to dominate proceedings when downgraded to the European Tour, and Rickie Fowler could produce a similar performance in the Scottish Open.

Fowler has been contending for prestigious titles all season on the toughest circuit of them all, winning the Honda Classic by four shots in February and delivering an each-way return six times, and the Scottish Open might seem like a piece of cake in comparison.

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson are also in the field, but neither can be backed with confidence. McIlroy has been struggling with injuries and club adjustments all year, missing the cut by five shots in the Irish Open. Stenson has been largely unimpressive since finishing runner-up in the Dubai Desert Classic in the first week of February.

Adam Scott has been flushing it lately and seems more of a threat to Fowler, but if the Australian putts as abysmally this week as he did at the US Open, he has got no chance of success at the Dundonald Links.

Fowler deserves clear favouritism given his consistently excellent Stateside form and his likely suitability to Dundonald. The world number ten, runner-up in the Memorial last month and fifth in the US Open, was third in the Quicken Loans National in his last outing.

Fowler has twice played in the Scottish Open, finishing eighth at Royal Aberdeen in 2014 before winning at Gullane the following year. He relishes links golf and tied for second place in the 2014 Open at Hoylake.

Turning great golf into winning golf has been a problem for Fowler since the Honda, but the American raider should walk with more swagger in European Tour company and close the tournament with assurance. The 2016 Abu Dhabi champion enjoys his trips abroad and possesses the short-game class which is required to handle Dundonald.

Next best
Alex Noren 18-1

A successful title defence in Ayrshire on Sunday would come as no surprise – everything points to Alex Noren spending another week on a European Tour leaderboard. The Swede seems to find an extra spring in his step when performing in Britain.

Noren has won nine times on the European Tour and four of those triumphs have come in Britain. Maybe the similar climate to his homeland has something to do with it, but for whatever reason the man who turns 35 today loves Blighty.

Noren, winner of the Wales Open, Scottish Open, British Masters and BMW PGA Championship, finished third in the 2012 Scottish Open and the 2012 Dunhill Links Championship. One round of the Dunhill is played at Kingsbarns, crafted by the designer of Dundonald, and Noren's British Masters victory came at The Grove, which is also a Kyle Phillips creation.

It is also worth noting Noren was runner-up in the Paul Lawrie Match Play at Archerfield Links last year. After Superman golf in the final round at Wentworth at the end of May and some decent stuff since, Noren could emerge as the biggest danger for Fowler fans.

Other selections
Paul Dunne 80-1
Joakim Lagergren 200-1
Benjamin Hebert 175-1

Paul Dunne is from the east coast of Ireland and can handle links golf, as he showed in spectacular fashion when leading the 2015 Open as an amateur at St Andrews going into round four. The 24-year-old should prove a good fit for Dundonald.

Dunne has played solidly in the last two Dunhill Links – 19th and 25th – and he almost landed a maiden European Tour triumph in the Hassan Trophy in April. Dunne lost a playoff to Edoardo Molinari in Morocco, but plenty of positives could be taken and flashes of brilliance have followed. He closed the French Open at the start of this month with seven threes in his final eight holes to finish 13th, and started well in the Irish Open last week before a disappointing third round.

The progressive Dunne has the putting ability to be a factor at Dundonald, while the same can be said of Joakim Lagergren, a Swede who is a year older. Lagergren has had two cracks at the Dunhill Links Championship and has finished fourth on each occasion.

Lagergren fired a 62 at Kingsbarns in the 2015 Dunhill, making eight birdies and an eagle, so will be licking his lips at the prospect of tackling another Phillips design in Scotland this week. He has twice threatened a maiden European Tour title this term, sharing second in Qatar in January and going into the final round of last month's BMW International just a shot behind, and he has winning form across the North Channel from the 2014 Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour.

Complete your staking plan with another player who has won a Challenge Tour event in the United Kingdom. Benjamin Hebert has won six times on that circuit, including the 2011 English Challenge, and a maiden European Tour victory seems close for the 30-year-old Frenchman.

Hebert, who was fourth in the 2015 Dunhill Links, impressed in last month's Nordea Masters and last week's Irish Open, finishing eighth in both.

Others to note
Chris Wood The giant Bristolian loves links golf and has twice contended for the Claret Jug, but he withdrew from the French Open after three rounds last time with a wrist injury.

Branden Grace The South African is not enjoying a good season by his high standards, but he won the 2012 Dunhill Links and relishes this sort of assignment.

Matthew Fitzpatrick The Sheffield lad has been blighted by inconsistency this term, but Dundonald Links sets up well for him.

Tyrrell Hatton The Buckinghamshire boy has seen his bubble burst in recent weeks, a form dip arriving after the most successful period of his career. The 2016 Dunhill Links champion.

Anirban Lahiri The Indian shared second place in the Memorial last month and has proven himself on the US Tour. Could make hay in this downgrade.

Martin Laird The Scot is a three-time US Tour champion competing in his homeland. He finished third in the Quicken Loans National last time out and must be respected.

Staking plan
R Fowler
4pts 8-1 general
A Noren
2pts each-way 16-1 general
P Dunne
1pt each-way 80-1 Betfred
J Lagergren
0.5pt each-way 200-1 BoyleSports, Coral
B Hebert
0.5pt each-way 175-1 bet365

The lowdown

Course Dundonald Links, Ayrshire, Scotland

Prize money €6.15m (€693,754 to the winner)

Length 7,242 yards Par 72 Field 156

When to bet By 7am tomorrow

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 10.30am tomorrow

Last week – Irish Open 1 J Rahm (14-1), T2 R Ramsay (200-1),
M Southgate (300-1), T4 D Drysdale (300-1), R Fox (150-1), J Rose (16-1), D Im (300-1)

Course overview Royal Aberdeen, Gullane Golf Club and Castle Stuart have been the venues for this tournament since it left Loch Lomond in 2011, but Dundonald Links makes its debut this year. Dundonald, which was originally known as Southern Gailes, was designed by Kyle Phillips and opened in 2003. It hosted the first stage of the European Tour Q-School from 2008 to 2011. Phillips designed Kingsbarns, which stages 18 holes of the Dunhill Links Championship each year, and The Grove, which hosted the 2006 WGC-AmEx Championship and the 2016 British Masters. Dundonald appears older than it is, crafted to mirror the classic links tests of nearby Troon and Prestwick. The fairways are generous, but many have rippled landing areas and feature several extremely penal pot bunkers, so finding the cut and prepared is not straightforward. Difficult, large, undulating greens make this a challenging short-game assignment

Alex Noren was triumphant in Scotland last year

Story of last year Alexander Noren edged Tyrrell Hatton by a shot at Castle Stuart Links, the Swede winning the first of his four 2016 European Tour titles

Weather forecast Cloudy with occasional light rain, with moderate winds throughout

Type of player suited to challenge Sound strategy from tee to green is required to negotiate the various dangers. There are even small patches of rough in the middle of some fairways, and pot bunkers are lurking everywhere. The key to success is long-game control followed by short-game brilliance on and around the sizeable greens

Key attribute Touch

Fowler deserves clear favouritism given his consistently excellent Stateside form and his likely suitability to Dundonald
E.W. Terms
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