This week sees we stay on the links, this time at Royal Troon. It is Open Championship week. Having seen my colleague Tom put together a strong write-up of the course in his preview, I won’t go through the details again and while the course isn’t used frequently in The Open rota, it’s a fantastic and traditional links course. For that reason, players who play links golf well will be my focus.
Let’s go make a million dollars!
The majors are difficult. They offer soft pricing with high quality players all the way through the field; however, for me there are question marks over all of the “Big 4” – even if only slight! – and with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson expected to be c.30% owned, if they don’t finish in the top 10 you have a step up on the majority of the field.
With this in mind, I’ll be looking to take the most expensive players on, and look to the next tier for my core players leaving me with a bit more cash to make a better rounded team. It’s a risk, but how else are you supposed to differentiate enough to make $1m?!
Adam Scott ($10,600) – Having started the year brilliantly with consecutive wins at The Honda Classic and Doral we know he has winning upside. Scott is currently trending in the right direction with four top 20s in his last five tournaments, sits 1st in strokes gained tee to green which will be key, and 7th in birdie average which is important for DraftKings points. His Open form is fantastic with four consecutive top 10s and he made the cut here in 2004 with a T42 which at the time was his best performance from five Open Championship attempts.
Sergio Garcia ($10,000) – Whether you think he’s the best player without a major or not, I don’t think it can be disputed that if he’s ever going to bag a big one, this is going to be the tournament where he does it. Nine top 10 finishes in his last 15 Open Championships shows his pedigree and having won his first PGA tour event in four years – and followed that up with two further top five finishes including in the US Open – he is clearly in fantastic form. Finished 2nd earlier in the year at The Honda Classic, another tournament with strong winds and small greens. A true lover of links golf, he is a great player to have in your lineup.
Branden Grace ($9,700) – Grace is likely to be highly owned, but with his credentials at under $10k, it’s difficult to get away from him. In the last two years, Grace has played six majors challenging at both US Opens and the USPGA finishing in the top 5 at all three events. While he only managed a 20th place last year at St Andrews, he has strong links form with his win at the RBC Heritage earlier this year (a course that has been compared to Royal Troon), as well as two wins at the exposed Qatar Masters course, and a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. His current form is excellent, with four top 10s in six tournaments since the Masters, and while he’ll be disappointed to have faded out of contention last weekend, it was a strong tune up. He sits second last in apex height on the PGA tour showing that his ball flight will naturally stay below the wind, perfect for this tournament should the wind get up.
Lee Westwood ($8,500) – I think Westwood’s price looks a bit high, but hopefully that will only serve to keep his ownership low. The deeper you look, the better his credentials look. Earlier in the season, Westwood’s career looked to be on the way down and out; however, he managed to finish 2nd at the Masters and since then has been playing fantastic golf and despite finished T32 was actually in the same group as Dustin Johnson in the final round of the US Open. On top of these two strong performances, he has finished in the top 15 of his four other tournaments since the Masters, and having played Royal Troon twice before he has two top 10 finishes.
Martin Kaymer ($8,400) – In five tournaments in Europe this season, Martin Kaymer has five top 13 finishes including last week at the Scottish Open, and a 5th place at the Irish Open in links conditions. This alone makes him a strong play; however, added to all this, he’s a double major champion so most definitely has winning upside. I expect him to be less than 10% owned, so is definitely a player who will differentiate against the field.
Hideki Matsuyama ($8,300) – If you’d priced up this tournament six weeks ago, Hideki Matsuyama would be up close to $10k. Since finishing in the top 10 at the Players Championship, he has missed two cuts and finished T42 at the Bridgestone. While this doesn’t look fantastic, he finished off the Bridgestone with a round of 67 showing a welcome upturn in form. In just three Open appearances, Matsuyama has shown an ability to play in links conditions with a top 10 finish on debut as well as making the top 20 last year. Having won earlier in the year, as well as finishing T7 at the Masters, there is potential for a high class performer with links form to go under the radar at a very good price.
Russell Knox ($7,600) – While Russell Knox plays all his golf in America, he is a Scotsman and will be very excited to be back at his home Open having missed the cut in his first attempt last year. Since then, however, Knox has improved significantly as shown by his results winning a WGC event in Hong Kong and rising up to 26th in the world. He has shown his ability to play links courses with a 2nd at the Irish Open, a 2nd at the RBC Heritage and 10th last week to warm up nicely for The Open.
Chris Wood ($7,600) – In 2008, Chris Wood burst on to the scene as low amateur at The Open finishing T5. A year later he returned to repeat the trick finishing T3. There is no doubt that he is a more than capable links performer; however, this is the year when Chris Wood has finally broken out climbing up to 22nd in the world rankings driven by a win at the European Tour flagship even the BMW PGA. He pulled out of the Scottish Open last week with a sore neck; however, was practising at Royal Troon over the weekend so while this may push down ownership, there should hopefully not be any impact to performance. Inspired by his good friend Danny Willett’s win at the Masters, there’s no reason Chris Wood can’t follow him into the winners enclosure this week.
Andy Sullivan ($7,200) – Andy Sullivan has had a whirlwind two years and having won three times last year, he seems to be making the step up and is playing some strong consistent golf. Having challenged at the US Open, ending up in T23, he will have got a taste for the heat of the battle at a major and his form is on a strong upward trend over the last five weeks with T22-T23-T21-T5-T6. In his first and only Open Championship performance in 2015, he finished a strong T30 and I would be unsurprised if he was able to outperform his price tag and improve on that performance.
Francesco Molinari ($7,000) – A couple of weeks ago at the Open de France, I faded Molinari based on his disappointment at the BMW PGA. He finished second. I won’t be making that mistake this week and at $7k he looks like a bargain. Off the back of consecutive top 10s on each side of the Atlantic, Molinari is coming back to a major which suits his consistent tee to green game. In eight Open appearances, he has three top 15 finishes showing good upside, particularly at this price. While he finds it difficult to win, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another top 15 finish at a course that should suit. Added to this, he’s the same world ranking as Todd Hamilton was when he won in 2004 if that’s a good omen?!
Padraig Harrington ($6,800) – Harrington has two Open Championship wins under his belt showing his upside; however, this pick isn’t based on the past but on his current form. In the last three weeks Pod has shown some great form with a top 10 in Japan followed by two top 30 finishes in Europe in strong fields. Interestingly, Harrington complained on Friday at the Scottish Open that the course was too easy when the wind died down so should the wind start to blow at Troon, he is one man I’d want on my side to grind things out.
Soren Kjeldsen ($6,300) – Ranked in the top 50 in the world, with a top 10 at this year’s Masters and strong links form, I cannot fathom why Kjeldsen is such a low price; however, we’re here to take advantage of it. He has solid recent form with a top 25 in the Scottish Open playing the weekend in 66-70. Another player who can grind out a strong round should the wind pick up as shown by his win in testing conditions in last year’s Irish Open.
Gary Woodland ($6,300) – While having a consistent year, Woodland seems to have gone relatively under the radar. In 16 tournaments he has missed just two cuts and has two top 5 finishes in his last four tournaments. Add in four made cuts from four Open visits, and a long game that sits 14th in strokes gained tee to green, and we have a strong low priced player who could outplay his price point.
Harris English ($6,300) – A couple of years ago people were talking about Harris English in the same breath as Jordan Spieth. After winning twice in 2013 it looked like he might start living up to the billing; however, a couple of tough years followed dropping him down to outside the top 100 in the world. This year, however, English has started to pick himself back up and is now sitting just outside the top 50 in the world and has two top 3 finishes to his name, as well as making the cut at the US Open. He has a good record at the RBC Heritage (a similar course which he says is his favourite) so may get some good vibes at Royal Troon, and has finished in the top 15 at The Open previously. Likely to be low owned and a potential differentiator.
The World Ranking Play:
Bubba Watson ($8,000) – Bubba Watson is the world no.5. He has two major wins, a WGC, and six other PGA tour wins, including one earlier this year. Despite this, he is ranked as 20th in the DraftKing pricing, a huge discount. He showed a pick-up in form last time out at the WGC Bridgestone when finishing T14 (three rounds of 70 or better), and he has the imagination to work his way around Troon. While his form at The Open isn’t fantastic, at a price like this, he has the winning upside which could make the difference in such a large field tournament like the Milly Maker.
Jason Day ($12,300) – This is a risky one, but at potentially 30% ownership he is a big one to fade. While he finished in the top 5 at St Andrews last year, I’m still unconvinced about Jason Day for a true test of links golf having finished a best of T30 in his other four appearances at The Open Championship. While he clearly has the ability to win – and has five top 10s in a row at Majors to prove it – he has shown on many occasions, such as when shooting a 79 in the third round of the RBC Heritage this year, that when the wind is blowing he can sometimes find it a little difficult.
Rickie Fowler ($9,900) – There is no doubting that Rickie is a top quality player, and is one of the best wind exponents in the game, but his recent form is worrying. Despite a top 10 last time out, since turning up for the Masters as one of the hot favourites, he has played eight tournaments, missing four cuts. Not a top tier statistic. Additionally, since finishing in the top 5 in all four majors in 2014, his major form has been particularly poor with results of T12-MC-T30-T30-MC-MC. I expect double digit ownership, however, for me he is a complete fade.
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,000) – With a claret jug under his belt and a further playoff loss last year, Louis will no doubt be a popular choice; however, both these top-2 finishes have been at St Andrews, while in seven other chances at The Open, Louis has a best finish of T19, including three MCs. His form this year has been a bit spotty with a win in Asia, but no top 10s in his last seven tournaments. While he has winning upside, these are not the sparkling numbers you’d expect from a player at this price, and adding in the WD risk associated with Louis, I’m happy to leave him out completely.
The Ones to Note:
Charl Schwartzel ($7,800) – I love this price, and I think he has the game to do well; however, Charl has just announced that he’s changing club manufacturer and will be using the new irons for the first time at The Open which seems like a bit of a risk.
Colin Montgomerie ($6,100) – That’s right. Monty. The man who couldn’t win a major in his pomp, but suddenly in his last ever major looks like a half decent play. While Troon isn’t played often, Monty is the one man who knows this links course back to front as growing up his Dad was the Club Secretary. Having qualified for the tournament, he is playing fairly good golf and has been handed the first tee off on Thursday which could give him a favourable starting point. Having seen other seniors such as Greg Norman and Tom Watson challenge in recent years, there’s no reason why Monty shouldn’t be another surprise package.