As the Challenge Tour returns to Scotland for the tenth staging of the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, we’ve picked out our five to watch this week, almost certainly applying the kiss of death to all concerned! Here’s the method to our madness...
The 34 year old Scot is sure to have strong local support, with his coastal home of Peterhead a mere two-hour drive from this week’s venue, and he has strong pedigree around this course.
McLeary followed up a second place in 2007 by securing his maiden Challenge Tour victory at the 2009 Scottish Hydro Challenge, and has made the cut in five of his seven appearances here.
On top of that, his form this year has already been strong, with a second career victory coming at the KPMG Trophy in Belgium two weeks ago, and he is once again a member of Team SSE Scottish Hydro, which provides financial support for emerging professionals.
A top ten finish in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge last month shows McLeary’s game is in a good place right now and, with form and experience on his side, he will be hoping for a high finish this week to help climb the Road to Oman Rankings from his current position of eighth.
He may be the obvious pick after his dominant six-shot victory in last week’s Nateji Open Presented by Neuflize OBC (video highlights below), but Gros really is the form man on the Challenge Tour right now.
Before winning in his home event, the Frenchman had tied for third at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda and tied for fourth in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge last month.
The 25 year old now sits in second place in the Road to Oman Rankings and after those recent results he must be one of the ones to watch in Scotland.
As a word of caution, it is worth noting that this is Gros’s first appearance at the Scottish Hydro Challenge, though we expect his confidence right now should outweigh that unfamiliarity.
We’re refusing to be put off by the Englishman’s missed cut at last week’s Nateji Open, preferring to focus on what had come before that.
Top five finishes at the KPMG Trophy and the Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf, where he lost out to Daniel Im in a play-off, show that Boyd has the game to compete with the best of them at present.
The 28 year old is currently 14th in the Road to Oman Rankings but returns to Scotland with mixed memories, having missed the cut in the event last year.
However, a creditable sixth place in 2009 suggests he can go well at this course and his form this season gives us reason to think his second Challenge Tour victory could be on the horizon – possibly even this week.
Yes, another Scot, but after Gros’s victory last week it is clear that home advantage can be a significant factor, and McArthur, a Challenge Tour stalwart, will have a lot of fans this week.
The 36 year old is also a member of Team SSE Scottish Hydro and lies tenth in the Road to Oman Rankings, aided by his good form last month in finishing second at the Made In Denmark Challenge and third in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge.
Add to that the fact that this will be his ninth appearance in the Scottish Hydro Challenge and that combination of form and experience points to another strong showing for McArthur, with the hope of improving on his previous best finish in this event of fourth in 2007.
A bit of a wild card option, but Pilkadaris should not be dismissed as a shot in the dark.
The Australian was tied second in this event last year, three shots behind winner Andrew Johnston, so knows his way round the Macdonald Spey Valley course.
The 41 year old also shook off an indifferent start to this season by finishing fourth in last week’s Nateji Open, suggesting he is coming into form at the perfect time to take a maiden victory this weekend.
A high finish would help Pilkadaris’s chances of climbing the Road to Oman Rankings as he currently sits 26th, though he has only played four events on this year’s Challenge Tour so far.