This week marks another two-event week for fantasy participants. While the PGA Tour tees it up at the John Deere Classic (our Power Rankings can be seen here), the European Tour heads to Royal Aberdeen for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
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Phil Mickelson returns to defend the title he won at Castle Stuart a year ago in a playoff over Branden Grace. Here are 10 names to watch this week in Scotland:
1. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman missed the cut at the Irish Open, but that was his first finish outside the top 25 anywhere in 2014. With his breakup from Caroline Wozniacki now a thing of the past, McIlroy can focus on creating some momentum in advance of his trip to Royal Liverpool and enters this week ranked sixth on the PGA Tour in scoring average and 12th on the European Tour in the same category.
2. Justin Rose: Rose is teeing it up for the first time since winning a playoff at Congressional, which in turn was his first win since his breakthrough major victory last year at Merion. The Englishman has been one of the most consistent players in the world this year, with eight top-25 finishes in his last 10 starts overall, including a tie for 12th in defense of his U.S. Open title at Pinehurst.
3. Luke Donald: Donald hasn't played since missing the cut at Pinehurst, but this is typically an event in which he thrives, regardless of Venue. The Englishman has never finished outside the top 20 in five prior appearances in this event, including a win in 2011 at Castle Stuart and a runner-up showing in 2006 at Loch Lomond. Donald's short game remains among the best around, and he nearly won on the PGA Tour at Harbour Town in April.
4. Jamie Donaldson: The Welshman was a surprise runner-up at Doral earlier this season, but he has kept up the momentum and notched back-to-back T-5 finishes on the European Tour over the last two weeks. Donaldson also tied for 14th at the Masters and had a solid showing at Wentworth, both results that furthered his goal of making his first Ryder Cup squad. A strong stretch of play over the next two weeks could punch his ticket for Gleneagles.
5. Joost Luiten: Luiten has four top-20 finishes in his last five starts overall, including top-five showings at both the Lyoness Open and the Open de Espana. The Dutchman doesn't have much of a track record in this event, but his play in 2014 across all corners of the globe has shown that he can compete with the best. He'll prove that again at Royal Aberdeen.
6. Lee Westwood: Like Donald, Westwood has experienced success in this event at both Castle Stuart and Loch Lomond, with four straight top-20 finishes dating back to 2007. While he missed the cut in each of his last two starts overall, Westwood did win earlier this year in Malaysia and recorded top-10 finishes against strong fields at both the Masters (seventh) and The Players Championship (T-6).
7. Phil Mickelson: The defending champ has yet to record a top-10 finish this year, but as he enters the two-week stretch that transformed his 2013 campaign he has reason to feel confident. Mickelson quieted the naysayers last year in pulling off an unprecedented double across two links courses, and while the venue this week has shifted to Royal Aberdeen, he still should have many opportunities to put his world-class short game on display.
8. Jimmy Walker: Walker missed a rare cut at Greenbrier, and now heads across the Pond to prep for just his second Open Championship next week. Walker has cracked the top 10 at each of the first two majors in 2014, and with three wins under his belt this season he remains a strong contender, especially if he finds a way to translate his game to fit a links-style course.
9. Francesco Molinari: The Italian was a runner-up in this event in 2012 at Castle Stuart and tied for fourth in 2010 at Loch Lomond. His tie for 26th last week in France was just his second finish outside the top 25 in his last seven starts, a stretch that included a tie for seventh at Wentworth and a T-23 result at Pinehurst. He also tied for sixth at TPC Sawgrass and has shown the ability to contend on a variety of course types.
10. Rickie Fowler: The only player with top-five finishes at both majors in 2014, Fowler is teeing it up for the first time since his runner-up at Pinehurst No. 2. While he is making his first start in this event, Fowler has shown that he can hang on links courses, specifically a T-5 finish at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George's and a tie for 31st the following year at Royal Lytham.