Michael McWilliams: Classy Tom Kim could overshadow another Rory McIlroy Renaissance at Genesis Scottish Open

Tom Kim
Tom Kim has played well in each of the last two Scottish Opens at the Renaissance Club and could go close to victory back at the Links venue this week (Jane Barlow/PA)

FOR the first time since letting a long-awaited fifth Major slip through his fingers in the US Open at Pinehurst last month, Rory McIlroy will tee it up in public at the Genesis Scottish Open this week.

And there can be no better place to make his reappearance than the Renaissance Club on the outskirts of Edinburgh as it was here 12 months ago that McIlroy put in the most blistering of finishes to pip home hope Robert MacIntyre.

The Holywood man birdied the last two holes to claim the title, with his two-iron into the wind at the final hole so good it now has a commemorative plaque on the 18th fairway.

That barnstorming finish was in stark contrast to Pinehurst last month, when three bogeys in the last four holes let Bryson DeChambeau back in for victory, and saw McIlroy heading for the airport and the safety of home.

He has bounced back in spectacular fashion before, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that McIlroy finds himself holding silverware come Sunday afternoon.

That said, he’d far rather be clutching the Claret Jug on the 18th green at Royal Troon the following weekend, and that has to the main focus for all the big names teeing it up in Scotland over the next 10 days.

This is the third year that the Scottish Open has been officially co-sanctioned by the PGA and DP World Tours, although there has been a strong American presence at the traditional curtain-raiser for much of the last three decades.

In the absence of world number one Scottie Scheffler, McIlroy goes to post as a 15/2 favourite, closely followed by his predecessor as Scottish Open champion, Xander Schauffele, at 8/1.

It has long been debated whether playing the week before a Major is a benefit when the big event comes around, but it can surely do no harm to get some Links golf in ahead of the Open, so different is that form of the game from the normal tour offerings.

The last two Open Championship winners definitely found a spin round the Renaissance Club did no harm at all, with Brian Harman finishing 12th before winning at Hoylake in 2023, and Cam Smith posting a 10th before triumphing up the east coast of Scotland at St Andrews the following week in 2022.

Winning the Scottish Open is not historically a great boost to Major chances, however, with Phil Mickelson the last man to do the double in 2013, with only McIlroy last year and Rafa Cabrera-Bello (2017) recording top-10s after Scottish victories since.

In terms of a proper tilt at the Claret Jug, it would seem playing well without winning this week is the answer, and I’d certainly rather be playing on a generous enough Links course than in the LIV Golf event at a brutal Valderrama.

Despite arguments to the contrary, McIlroy’s results say he has become a Links specialist over the years, and with light rain and only gentle breezes in the offing at the Renaissance Club, he could well go close again here.

However, his presence and that of Schauffele has created decent prices elsewhere, and I’m happy to have a few players on my side at more tempting odds.

The first of those is Tom Kim, who has taken to Links golf like a duck to water, starting with a tie for third in this event two years ago, which was followed by sixth last term when he was bang in the hunt before a couple of late errors.

A week later, Kim shared second at Hoylake, battling all weekend on a sprained ankle, displaying a grit beneath his jovial demeanour.

The Korean made a slow start to 2024, but played well for a long time at the US Open before pushing Scheffler all the way at the Travelers Championship, finally losing out in a play-off.

A missed cut a few days later in the Rocket Mortgage Classic is of no concern as it was his ninth event in as many weeks, and a refreshed Kim can go well here on a course that won’t punish his relative lack of power off the tee.

William Hill have Kim as a 25/1 shot this week and that looks pretty fair to me.

Home hope MacIntyre could go one better

I also want to stick with MacIntyre, who so nearly gave us a winner at 80/1 last term and has done nothing but enhance his reputation since.

The Scot went unbeaten in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Rome last October, and after a slow start to life as a PGA Tour member he has really found his feet, winning the Canadian Open last month on the back of a strong showing at the USPGA Championship.

Having spoken about being homesick, it was fitting he had has dad as caddie when winning in Canada, and while MacIntyre has been patchy since, a return to home soil may well inspire him.

He definitely knows how to play Links golf, adding a second here last term to a sixth in the Open at Royal Portrush in 2019 and eighth at St George’s in 2021, and at 33/1 (Boylesports) MacIntyre has to be worth an each-way flutter.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre (right) and his father and caddie Dougie pose for photos with the RBC Canadian Open trophy (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and his father and caddie Dougie pose for photos with the RBC Canadian Open trophy (Frank Gunn/AP)

Links specialist Tommy Fleetwood always has to be considered but he might be a bit on the short side at 18/1, and I’ll instead put up Thomas Detry at 66/1 with Paddy Power.

The Belgian is yet to win on the top tours on either side of the Atlantic, but he is a class act who came so close at the Renaissance Club in 2021, losing a play-off to Min Woo Lee.

Detry will feel a win is close, having contended all the way at the PGA Championship at Valhalla in May, finishing fourth, and performed well again on the way to 14th at the US Open, while he was also runner-up in breezy Houston this term.

As well as that play-off loss here in 2021, he was 10th a year later, and 13th in last year’s Open, so the Links know-how is there, and 66/1 is slightly on the big side.

I would argue the same about the 70/1 on offer about Ryan Fox, who is never happier than when playing Links golf, especially in Scotland.

The 2022 Dunhill Links champion went close to defending that crown last term, finishing second, and the Renaissance test will be close to what he relishes in that event, held on the east coast.

Fox’s seaside record goes back to fourths in the Irish and Scottish Opens at Portstewart and Dundonald in 2017, while he was second at Ballyliffin a year later and sixth in this.

A 16th at Portrush in 2019 was also a fine effort, while a 12th at the Renaissance Club last year kick-started a strong second half to the season.

Fox has been plying his trade on the PGA Tour this term, and there has been sufficient good play to suggest he will go close soon, notably a seventh in Canada last month, while he went well enough on his DP World Tour return when 17th in Germany at the weekend to think another step forward is coming in Scotland.

Tom McKibbin is in sparkling form and has to be considered at around the 70/1 mark, but for my final selection I’ll take a bit of a flier on Matthew Southgate.

At a time when there is huge pressure on namesake Gareth, Southgate has found a bit of form, thanks in no small part to a return to Links golf.

The Englishman sealed an Open spot in the qualifier at Royal Cinque Ports last week before flying to Germany and finishing fourth.

That was his best result since sharing second alongside Fox at the Dunhill in October, once more underlining a love for the seaside.

A former St Andrews Links Trophy winner as an amateur, Southgate was second in the Irish Open at Portstewart in 2017 and then sixth at The Open at Birkdale, while he was sixth at Troon in 2016, as well as ninth in this event in 2020.

He’s a huge outsider at 250/1 with Sky Bet, but we can only hope one Southgate can brings it home during a huge sporting week.


Tom Kim, e/w, 25/1 (William Hill);

Robert MacIntyre, e/w, 33/1 (Boylesports);

Thomas Detry, e/w, 66/1 (Paddy Power);

Ryan Fox, e/w, 70/1 (General);

Matthew Southgate, e/w, 250/1 (Sky Bet); top 20 finish, 13/2 (Bet365)