The Five Players to Watch at the Scottish Open

A major title won’t be up for grabs — that will come a week later at the British Open — but the Genesis Scottish Open, which begins on Thursday at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, should generate a lot of attention given the caliber of contenders playing.

Eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings, including No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 3 Rory McIlroy, and No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, will be in the field. Attempting to defend his crown will be No. 6 Xander Schauffele, who won by a stroke in 2022.

Here are five others to keep an eye on.

Tommy Fleetwood has had his moments in the Scottish Open, finishing second in 2020 and in a tie for fourth last year.Credit…Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood

Overshadowed during last month’s final-round battle in the United States Open at Los Angeles Country Club between the eventual champ, Wyndham Clark, and McIlroy was the seven-under 63 fired on Sunday by England’s Tommy Fleetwood, 32, who became the first player to shoot that score twice at the Open. His other 63 came in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, Long Island.

Nonetheless, Fleetwood, now ranked No. 22, failed on both occasions to win the trophy, and in more than 100 starts has yet to capture a tournament on the PGA Tour. He came very close the week before the U.S. Open, losing in a playoff to Nick Taylor of Canada at the RBC Canadian Open. In May, he tied for fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Fleetwood, a two-time member of Team Europe in the Ryder Cup, has had his moments in the Scottish Open, finishing second in 2020 and in a tie for fourth last year.

Justin Thomas, 30, won the 2022 P.G.A. Championship but has fared poorly in this year’s other majors. Credit…Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Justin Thomas

With his tie for ninth at the Travelers Championship last month, his first top-10 finish since March, it seemed Thomas, one of the game’s top players, was back on track.

Or not.

A week later, he missed the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

Thomas, who has dropped to No. 20 in the world, struggled mightily in the second round of the U.S. Open. He hit just five fairways on his way to shooting an 11-over 81, missing the cut by 12 strokes.

“It’s pretty humiliating and embarrassing shooting scores like that at a golf course I really, really liked,” he said.

Thomas, 30, who won the 2022 P.G.A. Championship, has also fared poorly in this year’s other majors. He missed the cut at the Masters and tied for 65th in the P.G.A.

With the British Open a week away, this would be a good time for him to regain his old form.

Rickie Fowler’s victory two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was his first in four years.Credit…Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Rickie Fowler

Speaking of old form, with his victory two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, his first in four years, Fowler, 34, is officially back.

It was no surprise given how well Fowler, one of the tour’s most popular players, was performing in recent months. He has finished in the top 15 or better in nine of his 11 tournaments since mid-March.

In the U.S. Open, he started off with a record-setting 62 and was tied for the lead after three rounds. Although he faded in the final round with a 75 to tie for fifth, he played well the next week at the Travelers Championship, tying for 13th. In the third round, Fowler, who is ranked No. 21 after starting the year at No. 103, flirted with a 59 before shooting a 60. A week later came the triumph in Michigan.

A lot was expected of Fowler, a star at Oklahoma State University, when he turned pro in 2009, and he didn’t disappoint. In 2014, he finished in the top five of each of the four majors. In 2015, he won the Players Championship.

The U.S. Open gave Wyndham Clark, ranked No. 11 in the world, sudden fame.Credit…Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Wyndham Clark

It wasn’t too long ago when casual golf fans were probably saying to themselves: Wyndham who?

The U.S. Open changed that, giving Clark, ranked No. 11 in the world, sudden fame.

The question is: Was his performance a fluke — other less-heralded players have claimed major championships only to vanish soon afterward — or will Clark, 29, be a force on the tour?

Clark picked up his first victory at this year’s Wells Fargo Classic and has the game to win more tournaments, including majors. He hits it a long way, and how he was able to hold off McIlroy down the stretch at the Open in Los Angeles was something to behold.

“It’s been a whirlwind few weeks and an amazing season so far, all coming together in L.A. a few weeks ago,” Clark said. “I’m looking forward to keeping things going over the summer.”

In June, Viktor Hovland, 25, captured his fourth tour victory and biggest yet, the Memorial Tournament.Credit…Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Viktor Hovland

In three of the past four major championships, Hovland, ranked No. 5, has been in the hunt. Sooner or later, he’s bound to break through.

Hovland, who would be the first man from Norway to win a major, was the co-leader with McIlroy heading into the final round of last year’s British Open. He faltered with a 74 to finish in a tie for fourth.

At this year’s Masters, he opened with a 65 and, though he had his troubles the next two rounds, was still only three back going into the final round. For the second straight major, however, he closed with a 74 to finish in a tie for seventh, failing to make a birdie until the 13th hole. A month later, he tied for second in the P.G.A. Championship, two behind the winner, Brooks Koepka.

In June, Hovland, 25, captured his fourth tour victory and biggest yet, the Memorial Tournament, in a playoff over Denny McCarthy. Hovland knocked in a 30-footer on 17 and saved par from five feet on 18 in regulation. In the playoff, he made a seven-footer for the win.

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