WATCH: PRICE CHECK – THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The field for the years third major consists of approximately 152 golfers and will feature a cutline of the top 70 and ties for the weekend. While the field is generally composed of most of the top players in golf, there are also a lot of past champions — who are past their prime — in the field this week, too. We can generally ignore these golfers on DraftKings. Of the top players, all will be in attendance. Dustin Johnson will be playing his first tournament since he missed the cut at the U.S. Open, while Rory McIlroy will be making his fifth start since coming back from a rib injury (he’s missed three of four cuts coming in). Jason Day is coming in healthy but also in suspect form having missed his last two cuts, while rookie sensation Jon Rahm is entering hot after decimating the field at the Irish Open two weeks ago. Overall, the field will have many PGA regulars making the trip over but will feature a field full of European regulars as well. Euro winners this year like Bernd Wiesberger, Alex Levy and Fabrizio Zanotti will all in attendance and offer up as interesting plays on DraftKings. As of writing, the only withdraw has been Ben Curtis who has been replaced by Tony Finau.
Royal Birkdale — Southport, England
Par 7,000—7,156 yards
Royal Birkdale is a fixture in the Open rotation and will be hosting its 10th Open Championship this year. While it’s not as famous as its counterpart in Scotland (St. Andrews — the home of golf), it has one of the impressive champions lists of any major host, with the likes of Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer all having won here. The course last hosted the Open in 2008 when Padraig Harrington captured his second Open Championship and hasn’t seen many changes since that time.
Birkdale may not be overly long, but at over 7,100 yards it’s not short either for a par 70. What really sets it apart from some of the other easier Open venues, however, is its layout. Save for the straight forward par 3s and the dead straight par 5-15th, nearly every hole is set at a dogleg, and requires players to hit a well-positioned shot off the tee. Additionally, as a seaside course, the wind is almost always in play at Birkdale and the holes almost all vary in their direction. This will make for some extremely tough clubbing decisions for players as the week progresses. Given both of these factors, it’s unlikely we see someone “overpower” Birkdale as players will likely be forced into plenty of tougher approach shots either by the wind or the heavily dog-legged layout.
As a course, Birkdale is a traditional par 70 with four par 3s and only two par 5s. While the par 5s aren’t overly difficult, they can often play into the wind which makes them more difficult than you’d imagine. The par 3s are fairly simple — all of them fall in the 175-200 yard range — and all played as medium strength holes in 2008. As for the par 4s, almost all of Birkdale’s have some kind of dogleg to them. With six of these holes measuring in at over 450 yards, placement off the tee will be critical, especially since players will be approaching smaller than normal greens this week. These longer par 4s will challenge the player’s ball striking all week and — with your regular links style bunkers in play and the unpredictable British weather — getting out of position here will be costly.
2017 outlook: As of now we are definitely set to see some rain and wind. While there doesn’t appear to be any crazy storms in the forecast, scattered showers are in play throughout the four-day tournament, and wind will be up throughout most of the week. As for the first two days, Thursday has a better chance of seeing some rain, with steady winds in the 13-15 MPH range, while Friday looks a little dryer but with slightly higher winds. Predicting a draw bias this far out would be foolhardy, but make sure to check back on the weather on Tuesday or Wednesday because one could, and often does, occur at this event.
Last six winners
- 2016 – Henrik Stenson -20 (over Phil Mickelson -18)
- 2015 – Zach Johnson – 15 (over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman, playoff)
- 2014 – Rory McIlroy -17 (over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler -15)
- 2013 – Phil Mickelson -3 (over Henrik Stenson even)
- 2012 – Ernie Els -7 (over Adam Scott -6)
- 2011 – Darren Clarke -5 (over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson -2)
- Five of the last six winners of the Open Championship has been 39-years-of-age or older.
- Four of the last five winners of the Open Championship had recorded a top-10 in one of the years first two major championships in the year of their victory.
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Par 4 Scoring
- Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 Yards
We don’t have a ton of past data to look back on stats-wise this week. That being said, the layout of the course should favor certain statistical markers over others. For example, as a long par 70, Royal Birkdale should play into the hands of strong par 4 scorers. With most of the par 4s including some kind of dogleg or wind advantage/disadvantage, even the shorter par 4s should play tough this week making strong Par 4 Scoring essential to a good week, and a stat to emphasize.
Additionally, with six of the par 4s coming in at 450-500 yards in length, looking at Par 4 Efficiency ratings from this length (450-500 yards) is also something to emphasize. These will likely be the toughest holes on Birkdale and the players who do the best on them will have a distinct advantage on the field.
Finally, I’d also venture to emphasize Strokes Gained: Approach here as well. As a layout with a lot of doglegs, Birkdale seems to be very much about position/keeping it in play off the tee, meaning approach shots should be emphasized here. I’d venture that players ranked highly in this stat should figure prominently here and would emphasize it in any statistical research you’re inclined to do this week.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their odds of winning this week.
|Ross Fisher||90-1||$6,700||Fabrizio Zanotti $6,600 and 250-1
Martin Laird $6,800 and 175-1
Steve Stricker $6,900 and 200-1
|Adam Scott||28-1||$8,500||Jason Day $10,000 and 28-1
Brooks Koepka $9,000 and 33-1
Phil Mickelson $8,700 and 33-1
**With this week’s course only being used every 10 years or so, we’ll be looking instead at past Open Championship form instead
- Adam Scott has been one of the best Open Championship players over the past decade or so. Since 2010, he’s made the cut in seven straight Open starts and has four top-10 finishes in that span, including a second from back in 2012 when he famously bogeyed the last four holes to lose by a shot.
- Sergio Garcia may have a Green Jacket in his closet, but this is the major championship he’s been the best at over his career. Dating back to 2005, Garcia has seven finishes of ninth or better at the Open, including a heartbreaking playoff loss to Paddy Harrington in 2007.
- Marc Leishman is a bit of a late bloomer to links golf, but his record over the past few Opens is worth noting. Leishman finished fifth at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and then backed it up with a gutsy T2 in 2015 when he lost in a playoff the Zach Johnson. He’s worth considering based on his past couple of go-arounds alone.
- Zach Johnson isn’t someone you’d typically consider for this event, but the 2015 champ has now made the cut in 10 straight Open starts, a run which includes three top-12 finishes in his last four appearances. His ability to keep the ball down in the wind has turned him into a great play every time this event rolls around.
- Steve Stricker has an under-the-radar great record at this event. He’s made the cut in his last 10 appearances and has gone T12-T23-T4 over his last three Open starts. Older players have some of the best track records at the Open over the past few years, and Stricker can be considered this week as a result.
Top Recent Form
1. Tommy Fleetwood: The Englishman comes in off the back of four straight top-10 finishes, including a win three weeks ago in France. He’s arguably the hottest golfer in the world right now.
2. Jordan Spieth: He now has a win and a T2 over his last four starts. Outside of the U.S. Open, Spieth has only shot over par once in his last 12 competitive rounds.
3. Rickie Fowler: Fowler continues to play solid golf as he has three top-5 finishes over his last four starts, including a T5 at the U.S. Open to go along with a T11 at the Masters.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (On Season)
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jon Rahm
3. Sergio Garcia
Top Par-4 Scoring (On Season)
1. Justin Thomas
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Hideki Matsuyama
Cash Games: Among the top players, a starting core of Sergio Garcia ($10,600) and Adam Scott ($8,500) is hard to beat from a value perspective. Both are slightly underpriced this week and have two of the best Open records in the field. If you prefer recent form, Jon Rahm ($11,400), Rickie Fowler ($9,200) and Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800) are fine targets in this range as well. From the lower ranges, there is plenty of value to chose from with Bernd Wiesberger ($7,600), Francesco Molinari ($7,300), Matt Kuchar ($7,200) and Bill Haas ($6,600) being my favorite targets.
Tournaments: While many seem ready to discount Rory McIlroy’s recent form, I’m not sure if he’ll be the low-owned pick many people think he will be in DraftKings tournaments. While it sounds risky, I’d rather take my chances with Jason Day ($10,000) who should be relatively ignored. Day has made the cut in four straight Opens, including a T4 in 2015, and a links course might be the tonic he needs to find form. Other tournament targets to consider include Hideki Matsuyama ($9,500), Branden Grace ($8,000), Lee Westwood ($7,700), Russell Henley ($7,000), Ross Fisher ($6,700), Daniel Berger ($6,700) and David Horsey ($6,400).
MY PICK: Sergio Garcia ($10,600)
It was a toss-up for me between which high-priced player to recommend (Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm were both considered), but given his age, his history at this event, his price and his overall form in 2017, the nod this week goes to Sergio Garcia. Since winning the Masters in April, Garcia has been able to back that win up with some strong play, including a T2 finish in his last start at the BMW International. Although he broke his major goose-egg at Augusta, it is the Open which has always been Garcia’s favorite major, as he has an incredible 10 finishes of T10 or better at this event since 2001. While younger players like Rahm and Spieth certainly come in with confidence, the Open has been an experienced player’s paradise recently with the last six winners all being 39 years of age or older. Garcia’s low ball flight off the tee should help on a wind exposed course like Birkdale, and the fact he’ll be playing this event for the first time without the burden of not having won a major is significant. As only the fifth most expensive player, I think Sergio is decent value this week and gets my nod as the strongest DraftKings play among the top group.
MY SLEEPER: Russell Henley ($7,000)
Henley is in the midst of his best season on tour and makes for an excellent target this week, on a course which should suit his game extremely well. The Georgia native won earlier in the season and has found some decent form recently too, including a T5 in his last start at the Greenbrier. What is most impressive about Henley’s record this year might be his performance in the years first two majors as he recorded his best ever finish at Augusta with a T11 and was in contention at the U.S. Open until a subpar final round. While he doesn’t have an extensive Open record, Henley has tended to play well on wind-exposed courses before (he has wins in Hawaii and Florida) and did record a top-20 finish at the Open back in 2015 at the Old-Course. He also currently ranks 17th in Par-4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards, a stat which may translate well to success on Birkdale’s tougher par 4s. Overall, Henley is a great all-around player capable of a breakthrough here and shouldn’t be disregarded on DraftKings at his $7K price-tag this week.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.