The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The field for the year’s last major consists of approximately 152 golfers and will feature a cutline of the top 70 and ties for the weekend. The field is composed of most of the top players in golf, and there are also a lot of past champions — who are past their prime — in the field this week, too, (David Duval, Ben Curtis, Tom Lehman).
Of the top players, all will be in attendance. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy — the top three players in the world — are coming in with semi-questionable form. It should be noted, however, that McIlroy took a long break after the US Open and essentially is playing on his home course this week, so he should be ready to go. Of the elite players there’s little doubt Jon Rahm looks to have the best recent form given he’s finished win-T2-T3 in his past three starts.
The good news is there is not a lot to report on the injury front. Some players, like Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, are coming into the event off a long break from competitive play, while others, like Henrik Stenson and Justin Thomas, chose to use the Scottish Open as a warm-up. Either way, expect another jam-packed leaderboard Sunday with lots of big names in the hunt for the year’s last major.
Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland
Par 71 — 7,344 yards
For only the second time in its history, the Open Championship will be contested on a venue outside of Scotland and England. Royal Portrush will host the Open for the second time (since 1951) and promises to be one of the more scenic courses in the Open rota. Placed near the Giant’s Causeway just outside of Belfast, the seaside links venue looks lush (a big change from last year’s burned out Carnoustie) and a true links golf test.
The venue has been reconstructed in order to host this week’s event and includes two new holes players who played here during the 2012 Irish Open would not be familiar with. The Dunluce Links venue will play as a par 71 this week and features bentgrass/fescue greens with seven Par 4s between 400-450 yards in length. These shorter but trickier holes should prove to be quite pivotal given how many of them there are strewn throughout the layout. Even in windy conditions, players should be able to place the ball close enough to the green on many of these holes to give themselves decent looks at birdie, but avoiding danger off the tee will be key.
Outside of this grouping, there are a couple longer holes, including the 230-yard Par 3 16th, where players will be happy to leave with par. Wind could make the 16th and a couple of the longer Par 4s extremely tough.
As with most Open venues, weather will be a huge factor this week. Two of the three par 5s play more than 570 yards in length but might be quite reachable for the field if the wind is with the players. If not, these will turn into longer “three-shot holes,” where par likely will be be considered a good score. Even though Portrush looks “lush,” conditions still are expected to be fast, so placement off the tee, where players will be happy to avoid some of the larger pot bunkers, will again be key.
2019 Weather Report: It’s still early but, like most Open Championships, we should expect weather to play a huge factor this week. Rain is in the forecast for nearly every day this week, although as of writing, Thursday looks like it will have a lot of dry periods throughout the day. Players will be teeing off Thursday in mid-50s temperatures with winds hovering around 10 mph. Ultimately, Thursday looks like a decent day, but things could turn for the worse Friday. Rain and gusts up to 20 mph are expected throughout the day Friday, with the wet stuff expected to let up only in the later afternoon or evening. This day could end up being a huge deciding factor as to which “wave” gets the advantage this week, so make sure to check the weather late Wednesday night before tee-off.
Past five winners
2018 – Francesco Molinari -8 (over Justin Rose and three others -6)
2017 – Jordan Spieth -12 (over Matt Kuchar -9)
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)
— Six of the past eight winners of the Open Championship have been 35 years of age or older.
— Six of the past seven winners of the Open Championship had recorded a T20 or better in one of the year’s first two major championships in the year of their victory.
— Thirteen of the past 14 winners of the Open Championship had a T9 or better finish at this event in a previous year before winning.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4 Scoring/Efficiency 400-450 yards
We don’t have a ton of past data to look back on as the Open doesn’t track Strokes Gained data. That being said, certain trends among winners/high finishers are out there. The past five winners all have ranked 23rd or better in the year of their win in Strokes Gained: Approach, with 2017 winner Jordan Spieth ranking first in this category and last year’s winner, Francesco Molinari, ranking 10th. Links golf often isn’t as much about length off the tee as placement, so emphasizing great iron players this week seems like a solid start.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green is also a strong indicator. The past six winners (excluding Stenson, who didn’t have enough rounds to be ranked) were all ranked 22nd or better in this category. Last year’s winner of the Open, Francesco Molinari, ranked second in this stat for the year.
Additionally, with seven of the par 4s coming in at 400-450 yards in length, looking at Par 4 Efficiency from this length (400-450 yards) is something to emphasize. The players will be seeing several of these tricky holes all week, so looking for those good at navigating this distance is a solid strategy. Finally, most links golf requires a good set of hands around the greens. The past five winners of the Open Championship all have finished inside the top 10 in Scrambling stats for the week. Looking at who has been in good form with their around-the-green game isn’t a bad idea for this event, either.
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 comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Player: Henrik Stenson
Odds to win: 33-1
DraftKings Price: $8,400
Hideki Matsuyama; 40-1; $8,500
Jason Day; 35-1; $8,600
Matt Kuchar; 40-1; $8,700
Player: Patrick Reed
Odds to win: 70-1
DraftKings Price: $7,400
Phil Mickelson; 100-1; $7,500
Danny Willet; 80-1; $7,500
Webb Simpson; 80-1; $7,600
HORSES FOR COURSES
With the course being played on this week only being used every 10 years or so, we’ll be looking at past Open Championship form instead
1. Rory McIlroy has racked up lots of top finishes at this event over the past five years or so. The winner of the 2014 Open at Hoy Lake has five finishes of T5 or better over his past seven Open starts, including a T2 last season. Over nine career Open Championships, Rory has missed the cut only once and that was at Carnoustie (his first Open) in 2007. He finished T10 at the Irish Open in 2012 (played at Portrush) and is the course record-holder at this week’s golf course.
2. 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 nine 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. He was T17 last year at Carnoustie.
3. Zach Johnson has made a ton of hay at this major championship over his career. The 2015 winner at St. Andrews, Johnson has made the cut in 11 straight Open starts, a run that includes three top-12 finishes in his past five appearances. His ability to keep the ball down in the wind has turned him into a great play every time this event rolls around. He finished T17 last season at Carnoustie.
4. Jordan Spieth might be slightly out of favor this year due to some shoddy play, but his Open Championship record is sterling. The 2017 winner of this event has finished T9 or better at this championship in three of the past four seasons and has never missed a cut in six Open Championship starts.
5. Sergio Garcia might have a green jacket in his closet, but this is the major championship he’s been the most consistent 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 at Carnoustie. Of note, though, is the fact he’s missed the cut in seven of the past eight majors.
Top Recent Form
1. Jon Rahm won the Irish Open with a sensational final-round 62 and has finished win-T2-T3 in his past three starts. He finished T9 and T3 at the Masters and US Open, respectively, this season to boot.
2. Bernd Wiesberger has made a sensational comeback recently and, with his win last week at the Scottish Open, has two wins in his past six starts and a runner-up finish at the Irish Open.
3. Rafa Cabrera Bello finished T9 at the Scottish Open last week and recorded top-five finishes in Germany and Ireland in his two starts prior to that as well. He’s heating up at the right time and has a great record on links venues.
4. Hideki Matsuyama hasn’t missed a cut all season and has finished T23 or better in each of his past six starts, a run that includes a T16 at the PGA Championship and a T21 at the US Open.
5. Henrik Stenson returned to action last week and finished a tidy T4 in Scotland. He has finished T9-T8-T4 over his past three starts and comes into this year’s Open Championship on his best stretch of the season.
Cash Games: Considering his recent form, taking the discount we’re getting off the top three players and using Jon Rahm ($10,600) as your anchor makes a ton of sense. After Rahm there’s a ton of different ways you can go to build but there’s little doubt the best pure value lays in the $8K range. Henrik Stenson ($8,400), Hideki Matsuyama ($8,500) and Matt Kuchar ($8,700) all stand out as outstanding value in this range. Below them, this is also a week where you can target players familiar with playing on links venues in Europe, and the form of Rafa Cabrera Bello ($7,500), Patrick Reed ($7,400) and Bernd Wiesberger ($7,300) make them solid targets for this format as well.
Tournaments: Dustin Johnson ($10,900) likely sets up as one of the best contrarian targets from the upper tier this week. Few DFS players will want to risk him considering he’s coming off a missed cut, but he has three top-10 finishes at this major and a runner-up from 2011. After DJ the likes of Bryson DeChambeau ($9,200) and Jason Day ($8,600) also fit a similar profile and could garner lessor ownership than others in their range. Other cheaper GPP targets this week to consider include: Thorbjorn Olesen ($7,300), Thomas Pieters ($7,000), Lucas Glover ($6,500) and Brandon Stone ($6,500).
MY PICK: Paul Casey ($8,300)
Casey isn’t known for his prowess in major championships, but neither was last year’s winner, Francesco Molinari ($9,400), before he triumphed over a stacked field. The Englishman always has been a solid links player and as the winner of the 2012 Irish Open, might be happy to see the event leave the mainland this year. Casey only has two top-10s at this event over a lengthy career (16 Open starts), but considering how big a factor solid iron play and experience end up being at this event every season, you have to think The Open remains his best shot at winning a major.
A winner earlier in the year at the Valspar, the 41-year-old also has accumulated five other top-five results on the season thus far and showcased solid form in his most recent start at the Travelers (T5). Ranked seventh in SG: Tee to Green and 16th in approaches, Casey’s numbers mirror those of last year’s winner, Molinari, who himself was coming into this event already with a win and a top-five finish in his most recent start. He’s not without flaws, but Casey looks like great value at this event at just $8,300 and could be the next veteran player in line to grab his first major win at the Open.
MY SLEEPER: Thorbjorn Olesen ($7,300)
While there are several cheaper European Tour players who are heating up just in time for their continent’s biggest event, the one who has a real shot at getting overlooked this week — and might carry the best upside of them all — is Olesen. The Dane has had a quiet year for the most part, but his most recent two starts were quite encouraging. A T10 in Germany was followed nicely by a T15 finish at the Irish Open, where he finished seven shots behind Jon Rahm. Olesen was up with the leaders at that event early, though, and the fact he was able to string together top-20 finishes for the first time this season is significant. The five-time Euro winner showcased increasingly better form ahead of last year’s Open, too, where he finished T12 and has performed well at links venues throughout his career, including T6 and T15 finishes in Ireland the past two seasons. From a DFS perspective, Olesen should carry low ownership yet will bring solid upside, as he’s slowly improved his major championship performances the past couple seasons. He’s an interesting GPP target for the year’s last major and a player capable of doing big things on a venue like Portrush.
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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.