It’s going to be a very short week’s work for 32 European Tour players. That’s because this week it’s time for the second Paul Lawrie Match Play, an event which will see half the field head home after just one day. We don’t get much match play on the golfing schedule so it is great to see some ahead of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine later on in the summer. It’s also great to see a player of Lawrie’s standing being rewarded with the chance to host a tournament on the European Tour.
Lawrie’s popularity in the game has ensured that a number of the European Tour’s best players have made the trip back to Scotland for a chance to play at Archerfield Links in North Berwick. It’s not just the change in format that the players will have to get used to, this is a brand new course to the European Tour so there is a lot of work to be done during the practice rounds.
The Archerfield Links website describes the course as “golf as it’s meant to be”. The Fidra Links is a par 72 measuring just under 7,000 yards. That may look short but the clue about this course’s main defence is in the title. It contains many of the challenges of a traditional Scottish links course which is no surprise as golf has been played on the land for over 100 years. Lawrie wants to take the European Tour to some unfamiliar but traditional links courses and he’s found a very good venue in that regard this week.
Alex Noren will be very happy to return to Scotland having bagged his first win for over a year at last month’s Scottish Open. The Swedish star has been struggling with injury this season but his win at Castle Stuart confirmed that he is now back playing somewhere near his best. Noren is a powerful player who has the confidence and the concentration to ensure that he hits sensible shots around tricky courses rather than simply aiming to overpower them. That will stand him in good stead this week and the bookies’ favourite will be tough to beat at odds of 16/1 with BetVictor.
David Howell finished in fourth position at last season’s Paul Lawrie Match Play and he returns full of confidence after strong showings at both the Scottish Open and the Open Championship. Howell has enough experience of match play events to remain level headed when things go against him and has all the skills required to cope with a tricky links course. At odds of 50/1 with Betfred, Howell looks very good value.
The final player to get on board this week is Stephen Gallacher. The Scotsman has not been playing at his best ever since making an appearance at the Ryder Cup in 2014. This could be the best chance for him to bounce back to form in front of his home fans. He’ll be able to contend with the pressure of match play and is worth a small stakes bet at tasty odds of 66/1 with BetVictor.