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Rory McIlroy Faces Questions Ahead of Genesis Scottish Open Defense

Rory McIlroy Faces Questions Ahead of Genesis Scottish Open Defense

The 2024 Genesis Scottish Open is nearly upon us, with the world's best golfers set to flock to The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland to kick off two weeks of links golf in the UK. Defending champion Rory McIlroy will be among those teeing it up, but faces some lingering doubts over his form heading into his title defense.


McIlroy claimed the title in dramatic fashion 12 months ago. But it's been over a month since his failure from the U.S. Open, where he faded well off the pace over the weekend at Pinehurst. With so much time spent away from competition, questions have been raised about whether his game is sharp enough to successfully defend his Scottish Open crown at odds of +750.


Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy lifts the trophy following day four of the Genesis Scottish Open 2023 golf tournament at The Renaissance Club, North Berwick, Britain, Sunday, July 16, 2023. Credit: AP/Jane Barlow


McIlroy will also have to face the music from the press about his disappointing Pinehurst showing after laying an egg in a major on home soil. Dealing with that scrutiny could prove too much of a distraction for McIlroy to contend.


Outside of McIlroy, one player generating plenty of betting buzz is Aaron Rai. The Englishman returns to The Renaissance Club, where he won the 2020 Scottish Open during its stint as a DP World Tour event. Rai arrives in sparkling form, riding a streak of four straight top-20 finishes globally.


A major key to Rai's resurgence has been an improved putting stroke. Working with coach John Graham, Rai gained nine strokes on the greens just last week to finish 11th at the John Deere Classic. When combined with his already stellar ball-striking, Rai has developed into a much more complete player. Betting experts like Keith Stewart of Read The Line are recommending grabs Rai at his current odds above 50-1 before they inevitably drop given his strong recent form and course history at The Renaissance Club.


It sets the stage for an intriguing week of drama at the 2024 Genesis Scottish Open. But for Rory McIlroy, the biggest drama may unfold in his bids to silence the doubters and successfully defend his title in North Berwick.


Read more: How to Watch the 2024 Genesis Scottish Open on TV and Online


What makes The Renaissance Club challenging for golfers during the Scottish Open


It was specifically designed for professional tournament play in mind, with long carries off the tees and many long par 4s over 500 yards that can be especially challenging into the wind.


In previous years, the course setup had been overly penal with very narrow fairways, punishing players for any deviations from the center. This made it too difficult for most amateur players.


However, before the 2022 Scottish Open, improvements were undertaken to enlarge the fairways and include new hazards such as pot bunkers and a dune complex on the 10th hole, giving the pros extra shot-making possibilities.



The course can play very differently for pros versus amateurs depending on conditions. Calm, wet weather in 2019 led to low scores while tougher tests were intended.


It is situated between legendary links courses Muirfield and North Berwick, so there is a high bar of quality and difficulty for it to live up to as a links-style test preparing players for the Open Championship.


This location and intended role has led to some debate around whether the Renaissance Club consistently provides an adequate level of challenge as a links-style course for professionals.





Sarah has a strong background in sports journalism, with a degree in journalism from a top university in the US. She has covered men's professional golf for over 10 years, attending major tournaments around the world and building an extensive network within the men's golf community. Her writing is known for its in-depth analysis, insider access, and ability to bring the drama and excitement of professional golf to life for readers.

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