WATCH: SLEEPER PLAY: SI WOO KIM
Our third major of the year is here as the best golfers in the world set their sights on The Open Championship. The last time this tournament was played at Royal Birkdale was all the way back in 2008. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn some things about the course from the results though. That year, the course finished as the toughest course with a scoring average of nearly 5-over par. The champion, Padraig Harrington ($7,200) finished at +3 for the week. This tournament will be a far cry from the 18-under that won Bryson DeChambeau the John Deere Classic last week.
Royal Birkdale GC is a par 70 course that plays just a shade over 7,100 yards. The setup is a little unorthodox with a front nine that plays to a par of 34 and the back which plays to a par of 36. Both of the par 5s are in the final four holes which should allow for some late scoring opportunities. Given that it’s a par 70, we’ll be going with the grain by targeting golfers who are accurate and excel on par 3s. When we go against the grain, we’ll be looking for longer hitters that perform well around the greens and score on par 5s.
Going With The Green
- Driving Accuracy
- Greens in Regulation
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Par 3 Birdie or Better
Dustin Johnson ($12,000) is coming off of two straight missed cuts for the first time since 2013. He is still atop the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and should be rested for this week because he hasn’t played since the U.S. Open. Even with his recent woes, Johnson still leads the PGA Tour in Greens in Regulation and Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. He also sits 10th on tour in Strokes Gained: Approach. As the #1 ranked golfer, he’ll likely garner high levels of ownership but should be in contention if he puts his game back together at Royal Birkdale this week.
Jordan Spieth ($11,600) has made four straight cuts at The Open Championship, including a fourth place finish two years ago. He hasn’t played The Open and Royal Birkdale, but his overall game seems to fit the style necessary to compete here. Spieth has struggled off the tee this year, but leads the field in Strokes Gained: Approach and is 5th in Par 3 Birdie or Better so far this year. Most DraftKings players will have to make a decision between Spieth and Johnson. Spieth is the better cash game play this week in my opinion.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800) hasn’t had much success at The Open Championship in the past but is currently at the highest OWGR ranking of his career. He finished 2016 at 99th and has climbed all the way up to 14th. All of his last four starts have resulted in top-10 finishes. Fleetwood seems to have good course fit as well. He’s extremely accurate off the tee and can strike the ball well also.
Xander Schauffele ($6,500) is a golfer who’s very attractive at his current price. Typically, the knock on some of these younger golfers is that they have all the talent but can shrink a bit in the limelight. Schauffele doesn’t appear to have that issue though, as evidenced by his top-5 at the U.S. Open and his victory at The Greenbrier Classic. He’s one of the best ball strikers on tour as he’s currently 14th in Greens in Regulation.
Honorable Mention: Adam Scott ($8,500) & Francesco Molinari ($7,300)
Going Against The Green
- Driving Distance
- Strokes Gained: Around the Green
- Par 5 Birdie or Better
An argument can be made that either Jon Rahm ($11,400) or Rickie Fowler ($9,200) has been the second-best golfer this season, behind Dustin Johnson. Jon Rahm is $2,000 more than Fowler, though. Rahm is definitely longer off the tee and is slightly more accurate on approach. Fowler holds the advantage in Driving Accuracy and Scrambling, though. It’s hard to fault anyone for playing one over the other, but I’ll take Fowler in cash for the salary flexibility he provides. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of these golfers hoisting the Claret Jug on Sunday.
|Jon Rahm||Rickie Fowler|
|Wins (including Euro Tour)||2||1|
If I told you that you could lock in a golfer for $7,200 that has made 14-of-16 cuts this season, you’d jump at the opportunity for that cut equity. Matt Kuchar ($7,200) will likely garner quite a bit of ownership at the price tag as people begin to realize that he doesn’t “back door” his way into all of these top-10s. Kuchar should be in consideration whenever he’s in the field. Golfers that aren’t mistake prone and can get up and down for par when necessary are going to succeed at Royal Birkdale, and that is the way to describe Kuchar’s skill set. I won’t overthink it, I’ll differentiate elsewhere.
If you’ve read this article for any amount of time, you knew Tony Finau ($6,800) would make an appearance this week. It’s difficult to fit him into “With the Grain” or “Against the Grain” because of how well he plays all-around. He falls into the “Against” category this week because he gains so many strokes off the tee with his distance. Finau has matured this year and can manage any type of course while avoiding mistakes if he doesn’t get too aggressive.
Honorable Mention: Hideki Matsuyama ($9,500) & Webb Simpson ($6,800)
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