DraftKings PGA Preview: The Open Championship

Jul 16, 2019

He owns the Royal Portrush course record of a 61… as a 16 year old!

DraftKings has eight golfers priced at $9,500 or above this week for the final major of the year. Rory McIlory is the highest priced golfer at $11,600. Brooks Koepka ($11,400) is the only other player in the 11k range. Dustin Johnson ($10,900), Jon Rahm ($10,600), and Tiger Woods round out the golfers with five-figure salaries. DraftKings provides you with $50,000 to select six golfers for an average roster spot of $8,333. Because all of the world’s best golfers are teeing it up at Royal Portrush this week, DK is not able to price all of them where they belong so you will be able to find some great values. You should like your lineups this week. If you don’t, then redo them.

All of the tips and information that I mention in this article are plays that I will be considering for my own lineups. In fact, most of the plays mentioned are based upon an extensive customized model that is based on a number of statistics and results. However, that doesn’t mean that I will end up with all of the guys that I mention. This article is written early in the week and additional news, research, and roster construction could lead me to different plays. Remember to check the news and social media reports leading up to the first golfer teeing off. Though golf is more difficult to get injury news, you might be able to pick up a nugget or two that helps with roster construction – especially when dealing with possible withdrawals.

Remember that golf is very difficult to play but DFS golf is even tougher. The best golfers will perform at a high level during the course of a golf season. However, from week-to-week, major variance can occur. Any golfer on the PGA Tour is capable of winning an event. On the flip side, even the best golfers in the world are capable of missing the cut in a given event.

Work at having a solid process week in and week out as opposed to getting bogged down by recency bias or the ups-and-downs of the weekly golf grind. Use all the information available to you to make the best decision possible for your lineup. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun! Whether you win or lose, golf is one of the most entertaining fantasy sports to follow because you get four days of action.

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TOURNAMENT NOTES

The Open Championship is being played on the Dunluce Course at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland this week. The course is a Par 71 that measures 7,344 yards.

The course has three Par 5 holes (532, 574, 592 yards), four Par 3 holes (177, 194, 194, 236 yards), and 11 Par 4 holes (shortest is 374 yards and the longest is 482 yards).

This is the first time since 1951 that Royal Portrush has hosted the Open Championship. The 2012 Irish Open was played here, however.

156 players are scheduled to tee it up this week with the top 70 (and ties) making the cut. The MDF (secondary cut) is NOT in effect this week. If your golfer makes the initial cut then they are good to go for the remainder of the weekend.

Previous Open Champions (at various golf courses) that are scheduled to be in the field this week include Francesco Molinari (2018), Jordan Spieth (2017), Henrik Stenson (2016), Zach Johnson (2015), Rory McIlory (2014), Phil Mickelson (2013), Ernie Els (2012, 2002), Darren Clarke (2011), Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Stewart Cink (2009), Padraig Harrington (2007), Tiger Woods (2006, 2004, 2000),, David Duval (2001),  and Tom Lehman (1996).

Jamie Donaldson won the 2012 Irish Open with a score of 18-under par. Notable finishers from that event include Rafa Cabrera Bello (T2), Padraig Harrington (T7), Rory McIlroy (T10), Francesco Molinari (T10), Graeme McDowell (T10), Ross Fisher (T10), Thorbjorn Olesen (T18), Emiliano Grillo (T44), and Shane Lowry (T51). Tommy Fleetwood, Danny Willett, Keegan Bradley, Branden Grace, and Dylan Frittelli (last week’s John Deere Classic winner) were some of the players that missed the cut. The winning score was 18-under par.

Be sure to check the weather Wednesday night as this is always a concern at the Open Championship. However, realize that it can change at a moment’s notice. I plan on making a couple of Thursday AM/Friday PM only lineups, as well as a couple of Thursday PM/Friday AM only lineups just to cover my bases.

If you like narratives or need a tiebreaker then you might want to consider that Graeme McDowell is from Portrush, Northern Ireland and his brother is a groundskeeper here. Brooks Koepka’s caddie (Ricky Elliott) is also from Portrush and has played this course more than 1,000 times (according to his estimations). Also, past winners Padraig Harrington (2008, 2007) and Darren Clarke (2011) are honorary members at Royal Portrush.

No player since Johnny Miller in 1976 has won without playing in the month prior to the Open Championship. Players that would fall into this category this year include Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, and Webb Simpson. Personally, I will not be excluding these guys because of that but I will be more cautious with them than I normally would be.

Rory McIlroy owns the course record of 61. He set this when he was only 16 years old. However, this was on the old course. Since his record-setting performance, a number of new greens, tee boxes, and two new holes have been added. The course is different than when he set the record.

Because the best players in the world are teeing it up this week, DraftKings can’t price everyone high so you’ll be able to get elite golfers at some value prices. If you don’t like your lineup, then you need to rework it. You should feel good about each lineup you build this week. That doesn’t guarantee success (because this is golf, in particular, DFS golf) but there are lots of good options to choose from. There is no need to dive too deep and play guys you don’t know, like, or trust. You can easily build a nice balanced build, but you can also get one of the studs and still round out the next five roster spots with solid players, as opposed to punt plays.

Even though this is links golf and a European golfer will probably appear on the leader board come Sunday, don’t get too cute or overthink it this week. Play the best players that you feel comfortable with. If there are some red flags, just move on to the next guy. Don’t over-analyze stats too much. Nobody knows exactly what stats will matter most on this course, especially once you consider the always present weather uncertainty. Just play good players who are playing well.

I will not be looking at stats much this week because with so many Euro players, it is tough to compare apples to apples. I will be valuing recent form (both on the PGA and the Euro Tour) and recent history at the Open Championship. I am not considering anyone that played at the John Deere Classic last week. I am also not looking at anyone that missed a cut at either the Irish or Scottish Open in the last two weeks. I am also not looking at players that have missed at least two cuts in the last five Open Championships. That means I am excluding Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Hatton, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, and Bubba Watson. We need to narrow our player pool because we can’t play everyone. This will be my strategy this week.

DK CONTESTS TO CONSIDER

$0.25 – One of the lower stakes GPPs that DK offers. This is a great contest to have fun playing around with different lineups. You can enter up to 20 lineups so you can “max enter” for less than the cost of a meal. First prize is $500.

$0.50 – Can’t decide who to play because so many golfers look good this week? Then this might be your option. This is your chance to play like many of the pros do and mass multi enter (MME) 150 lineups. If you go that route, it’ll cost you $75 to enter but first prize is $5,000 and you can have a bigger player pool.

$1.00 Single Entry – First place is only $750 but you don’t have to go against the pros using optimizers and computer programs. Figure out your best lineup and enter it against everyone else’s best lineup.

$4.00 – The winner gets $50,000. The maximum entries are capped at 20 so you really aren’t at a huge disadvantage even if you only enter one or two lineups.

$20 – Who wants to be a millionaire? This is the lottery ticket this week with the winner earning a cool $1,000,000. It is unlikely that you’ll win the million-dollar first prize, but somebody has to win it, so why not you? You’ll need to differentiate your lineup at one or two spots and probably need all of your guys to finish in the top 10-15, as well as having the winner. It’s a fun tournament to play if you want to fire an entry into it.

COURSE FIT & KEY STATISTICS

Tournament History
When looking at the last five Open Championships, the 15 golfers that have gained the most total strokes on the field (in ranked order) include Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, and Dustin Johnson.

Recent Form
In my customized model, the 15 golfers with the best recent form (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Hadwin, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, Chez Reavie, Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods, and Matt Wallace. It should be noted that this only includes PGA Tour events. European Tour events were not included in my model. Rafa Cabrera Bello has two straight top-10 finishes on the European Tour each of the last two weeks. Bernd Wiesberger has finished first and second in back-to-back weeks on the European Tour. Jon Rahm won the Irish Open two weeks ago. Erik Van Rooyen was 18th in my form model but finished T14 at the Scottish Open last week. Matt Wallace also finished T14 at the Scottish Open. Henrik Stenson was 22nd in my form model but finished T4 at the Scottish Open. Andrew Putnam was 27th in my model but finished T4 at the Scottish Open.

Consecutive Cuts
The golfer in the top ten for most consecutive PGA Tour cuts are Hideki Matsuyama (25), Tommy Fleetwood (23), Graeme McDowell (14), Matthew Fitzpatrick (10), Brooks Koepka (10), Henrik Stenson (10), Emiliano Grillo (9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (8), Billy Horschel (8), Ross Fisher (7), Webb Simpson (7), and Brandt Snedeker (7)

Big Game Hunters
In looking at the results from the last three years at WGC events, the Tournament of Champions, the Tour Championship, the PLAYERS Championship, and all four majors, the best 15 golfers at big tournaments (in ranked order) are Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, and Matt Kuchar.

DraftKings Scoring
The top 15 golfers when it comes to DK scoring average (in ranked order) are Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Doc Redman, Tiger Woods, and Webb Simpson.

FAVORITE $10,000 PLAYS

Rory McIlroy ($11,600)
He is the favorite this week and I expect him to be heavily owned. He owns the Royal Portrush course record of a 61. He set this when he was only 16 years old! There is no argument that he has the best record at the Open Championship as he has finished in the top five in each of his last four starts, including a win in 2014 and a runner-up last year. He has been a stud this year. He has top-10 finishes in 11 of his 14 starts, including a win at the PLAYERS Championship and the RBC Canadian. I will be over-exposed to him in mass multi-entry tournaments.

Brooks Koepka ($11,400)
I am not going to go crazy with Brooks but will have more shares of him than the field. If it looks like he will be 20% owned, I will probably have 25-30% in mass multi-entry tournaments. I have faded him the last few majors and have regretted it. I am not going to doubt Brooks again until he comes back to the world of mere mortals at majors. He has four of the last six majors. He also hasn’t been bad at the Open Championships making four straight cuts, including top-10 finishes in 2017 and 2015.

FAVORITE $9,000+ PLAYS

Xander Schauffele ($9,500)
Only Brooks Koepka has a better record in big-time events in the last three years. Xander hasn’t won a major yet but his finishes have been impressive (third at the U.S. Open and second at the Masters just this year). He has also won a WGC event and the Tournament of Champions this season. It is only a matter of time before he wins a major. I am not sure that it will be this week, but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has shown that he can compete and contend at links courses with his T2 at last year’s Open Championship and a T20 the year before as a rookie.

FAVORITE $8,000 PLAYS

Matt Kuchar ($8,700)
He continues to have his best season ever as he has two wins and two runner-up performances this year. He has only missed the cut once in his 18 starts. He has 12 top-20 finishes and six top-5 finishes. As for the Open Championship, he has made the cut in seven straight cuts, including three top-10 performances. His best finish was a runner-up in 2017. He followed that up with a T9 last year. He is as solid as they come regardless of the terrain or the field strength. He will most likely garner a good bit of ownership but is still a good option, especially in single-entry or 3-max tournaments.

Adam Scott ($8,800)
The good news is that his T7 at the U.S. Open last month gave him his third straight top-10 finish. It was his fifth in only 11 starts. The bad news is that he hasn’t played since then. Four weeks off is quite a layoff and I don’t know exactly how he’ll play. He has two runner-up finishes this season, including a performance at the Memorial that would have normally resulted in a win except for Patrick Cantlay playing near-flawless golf on Sunday. He has made the cut in nine straight Open Championships. Included in that streak are four top-10 finishes. His best-ever finish was a runner-up performance in 2012. He finished T12 last year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was in contention for the Claret Jug come Sunday. But since he has only made 7/11 cuts this year and has taken a month off, I am not as certain about him as I would like to be. He will be a key player in my tournament builds provided his ownership will be reasonable.

Henrik Stenson ($8,400)
After struggling to start the season, the 2016 Open Champion is really coming into form and trending up. He has three straight top-10 finishes, including at the U.S. Open and this past week at the Scottish Open. He has made 10 straight cuts at the Open Championship, including four top-10 finishes.

FAVORITE $7,000 PLAYS

Webb Simpson ($7,600)
The world’s 19th ranked player is priced as the 30th most-expensive player on DK. He has four straight cuts at the Open Championship, including a T12 last year. He has demonstrated an ability to show up big in important events. He last played at the U.S. Open finishing T16 after finishing runner-up to a red hot Rory McIlroy at the RBC Canadian. He also finished T5 at the Masters, T29 at the PGA Championship, T16 at the PLAYERS Championship and T8 at the Tournament of Championship. Overall, he has made 13/14 cuts this year with 10 top-10 finishes. He is a great value at this price.

Eddie Pepperell ($7,600)
He has made 11 of 13 cuts this calendar year. In his last eight events, the only missed cut he has was at the very difficult PGA Championship. During that stretch, he has three top-five finishes, including a T3 at the PLAYERS Championship, T2 at the British Masters, and T3 two weeks ago at the Irish Open. He finished T43 this past week at the Scottish Open. He has shown an ability to contend on Sundays, as well as make cuts. His Open Championship is limited but he has made both of his cuts, including a T2 last year.

Rafa Cabrera Bello ($7,500)
RCB is hot fire right now except that he struggled a little bit this past week. And by struggle, I mean that he “only” finished in the top-10 at the Scottish Open after finishing T4 at the Irish Open and T3 at the BMW the two weeks prior. He has made 11 straight cuts worldwide. As for the Open Championship, he has made four straight cuts, including a T4 in 2017.

Bernd Wiesberger ($7,100)
His Open Championship history isn’t great (only 2/4 cuts made in the last five years) but he did make the cut last time he played in the Open Championship in 2017.  However, he is absolutely on fire in his last two events with a runner-up at the Irish Open two weeks ago and a win this past week at the Scottish Open. Both of these courses are links courses. He also won in Denmark at the end of May and followed that up with a top-five in Belgian. There are no sure things in DFS golf but at his price, he almost becomes one of the few no-brainers that we have. His ownership might be high, but I will choose to differentiate elsewhere. He is just coming in too hot right now.

Michael Lorenzo-Vera ($7,000)
He will not be in my main lineup but will have a decent amount of him in my mass multi-entry tournaments if it looks like he will be low owned. He has made the cut in 15 of his last 16 events, including 10 in a row. During that consecutive cut streak, he has three top-five finishes and six top-20 finishes. He has finished T9 and T28 the last two weeks on links courses at the Irish Open and Scottish Open, respectively. He has made the cut in his only Open Championship start back in 2017. He rarely ventures onto the PGA Tour but did finish T16 back in May at the PGA Championship.

FAVORITE $6,000 PLAYS

Andrew Putnam ($6,600)
I will not be venturing down into the lower tiers this week even though there are some fine players and intriguing names. I am trying to stay disciplined and not chase unicorns. Putnam is the one player that could make my shortlist of core plays this week that I would use in any format. He is a bit under the radar but has finally cracked the Official World Golf Ranking top 50. He has shown that he can make cuts, finish high at tournaments, and do well at links courses. He is starting to play well, and his price tag is very attractive. I fear that he will be quite popular after his T4 this past week at the Scottish Open. My hope is that there are enough other high-quality players down here that will cause ownership to be spread out. He has made the cut in six straight events, which includes two top-five finishes. Back in the swing season and to start 2019 off, he finished T4 at a WGC event and T14 at the Tournament of Champions. My biggest hang-up with Putnam is that this will be his first Open Championship.

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Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and is a leadership trainer, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommends.

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