Sul­li­van has Scot what it takes for timely win

The Racing Paper - - Golf - By Mitchell Platts

LIVER­POOL fan Andy Sul­li­van might be one of mil­lions cheer­ing Eng­land on their World Cup jour­ney, but the route on his mind this week is find­ing the way back to the win­ner’s ros­trum via the Scot­tish Open at Gul­lane Golf Club.

The 31-year-old from Nuneaton, who stacked su­per­mar­ket shelves be­fore find­ing fame on the fair­ways, has valiantly bat­tled his way back on track af­ter los­ing his direc­tion.

Sul­li­van con­fessed to com­pla­cency af­ter claim­ing three Euro­pean Tour ti­tles in 2015 then mak­ing his Ry­der Cup de­but in 2016.

This sea­son, how­ever, Sul­li­van has demon­strated his de­ter­mi­na­tion by not miss­ing a sin­gle cut on the Euro­pean Tour while notch­ing nine top 25s and to­talling 117 un­der par.

Those fig­ures alone in­di­cate that Sul­li­van is on the cusp of win­ning again es­pe­cially as he has good mem­o­ries of com­pet­ing in Scot­land – he won the Scot­tish Ama­teur Open Stroke Play Cham­pi­onship in 2011 in which year he also helped GB & Ire­land win the Walker Cup against an Amer­i­can team which in­cluded Jor­dan Spi­eth.

Sul­li­van was down the field when in 2015 the Scot­tish Open was last staged at Gul­lane, on Scot­land’s East Coast on the Firth of Forth.

Nev­erth­less, he fin­ished sixth in the 2016 edi­tion at Cas­tle Stu­art Golf Links then ninth the fol­low­ing year at Dun­don­ald Links.

That fur­ther ad­ver­tises his prospects of chal­leng­ing for the ti­tle al­beit that nu­mer­ous golfers have per­formed well in the Scot­tish Open since it left Loch Lomond in 2011 fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion to ro­tate the event on links cour­ses.

Rickie Fowler, rated the best player in the world with­out a Ma­jor, won at Gul­lane in 2015 – a year af­ter fin­ish­ing eighth and he was in the mix 12 months ago with a top ten.

Fowler heads a pow­er­ful Amer­i­can force, all seek­ing to pocket this ti­tle while pre­par­ing for The 147th Open Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie, with Masters cham­pion Patrick Reed, 48year-old Phil Mick­el­son, Matt Kuchar and Charley Hoff­man con­tend­ing.

Reed fin­ished tenth in 2016 when Swe­den’s Alex Noren, the French Open cham­pion, won but missed the cut last year as Spain’s Rafa Cabr­era Bello broke a five year los­ing se­quence on The Euro­pean Tour.

Mick­el­son en­joyed eight of the great­est days in his ca­reer when he won the Scot­tish Open in 2013 then The Open Cham­pi­onship the next week and in­sists that there is no bet­ter way to pre­pare for the third Ma­jor of the year than tee­ing-up in this event.

That state­ment is sup­ported by the fact that six of the last eight Open win­ners have par­tic­i­pated in the Scot­tish Open so we can ex­pect an­other bold show­ing from the Amer­i­cans with Kuchar, run­ner-up to Fowler in 2015 and fourth last year, wor­thy of an in­vest­ment.

Justin Rose won this in 2014 and looked set to make a stout de­fence when open­ing with a pair of 66s in 2015 but fell back to 74th. The English­man has elected to re­turn af­ter miss­ing the last two years, and has a favourite’s chance.

Hen­rik Sten­son, like Rose, has good form in the event – three top 15 fin­ishes – while Rus­sell Knox, tenth in both 2015 and 2016, and Tyrrell Hatton, run­ner-up in 2016 and fourth in 2014, can­not be dis­counted.

At longer odds, how­ever, it is worth taken a punt on Bel­gium’s Ni­co­las Col­saerts, third in 2011 and 2016, Spain’s Jorge Campillo, eighth in 2016 and en­joy­ing his finest sea­son, and Italy’s Mat­teo Manassero, fourth in 2014 and third in 2016.

Amer­i­can chal­lenge: Matt Kuchar is a threat

Come in Andy: Sul­li­van is primed to win again

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