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The Course

We're entering our third major of the year - The 146th Open Championship (or British Open for some of you)! This year’s host is Royal Birkdale GC in Southport at the northwest coast of England and is one of the finest test of links golf. It is a par 70, 7156 yard course with 4 par 3s and two par 5s. Royal Birkdale is a regular host of the Open (this will be it’s tenth time serving as host second only to St. Andrews) and produces some of the toughest holes. Back in 2008, seven of the 18 holes were ranked in top 50 toughest holes including the demanding opening hole (par 4, 448 yards) which ranked second toughest hole in 2008 and 1998. Its biggest defense is the unrelenting winds that blow off the Irish Sea followed by its tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers. The hole breakdown is as follows:

Par 3 4
Par 4 <400 1
Par 4 400-450 6
Par 4 450-500 5
Par 4 >500 0
Par 5 2
Total 18

If you haven’t watched the flyover and hole maps to help you understand this course and how to tackle it, you should. It’s worth it. Here’s the link:

Course Overview

Off the tee, golfers will encounter narrow (but extremely flat) fairways nestled in the sand dunes that are open to the elements and the ever changing winds off of the Irish Sea. For an interesting read about why the fairways are “as flat as the stomach on a supermodel” read Rob Witten’s article from Golf Digest. The tees, fairways, rough and greens are comprised of bentgrass and fescue. There are difficult pot bunkers throughout the course placing emphasis on precision off the tee and on approach shots. This will not be a “grip-it-and-rip-it” course. Also, there will be a few times when consecutive holes will play in the same direction. Thus, those golfers who can manage their ball in windy conditions will excel. The greens vary in size but often are long and narrow and surrounded by deep pot bunkers. The 7th hole smallish green described as an upturned saucer surrounded by 7 deep pot bunkers and so an accurate approach shot will be crucial.

Scoring will not come easy at Royal Birkdale as compared to other courses on the Open rotation. In the last decade Birkdale was the only course to produce a winner above par. In 1998, Mark O’Meara defeated Brian Watts in a playoff and finished at even par while Harrington won at +3 in 2008. The cut in 2008 and 1998 was +9 and +6, respectively. This proves how tough this course can be especially when weather significantly influences how the course will play.

As of this writing, weather looks to be fairly good with winds only in the low teens but that can alway change as we are still a week away.

My Picks

The uber strong field will consist of 156 golfers including top finishers of this week’s John Deere Classic and Scottish Open. In 2008 Padraig Harrington won under brutal conditions of rain and wind to finish 3 over par to successfully defend his 2007 championship win the coveted Claret Jug. As described above, this course will favor the accurate ball strikers and less the bombers. So selecting golfers who rank high in driving accuracy (DA), ball striking (BS=Total Driving + GIR) or true ball striking (TBS=SGOTT + SGAPP) (thanks to @fantasygolfman, Timothy Franks) which could be used as a better representation over BS.

Only one hole (hole 17, par 5, 572 yards) played under par in 2008 and 1998 with a birdie rate of over 40% both years and even had 10 and 26 eagles, respectively. Therefore, golfers who can avoid bogeys (BA) and avoid 3 putting (3PA) will fair better. I will still consider T2G important overall but will not use BB% this week as in past weeks. I suspect that fantasy scores will be much lower than usual because there will be a significant less number of birdies to be made, less birdie streak bonuses and bogey free rounds.

[Note: As of the time of this write up, stats are current through the Greenbrier.]

Rickie Fowler (DK $9200, FD $9600, FDR $16800) - At the top, there are seven golfers above 10k this week and all can be justified to be used in your lineups because they are the cream of the crop. They all have the skillset to win and so you can select any of them and be confident in their upside. So, this week, I’m going to start under 10k with Rickie Fowler who is knocking on the door to win his first major. He’s in great form making 2 of 3 cuts in the last four weeks including a 5th at the US Open and 2nd at the Memorial. I’ll forgive for the MC at the St. Jude’s before a major. His YTD stats are impeccable (10th T2G, 8th SGAPP, 14th TBS, 9th BA and 32nd DA). In the last 24 rounds for the field, he is 20th T2G, 16th SGAPP and 6th BA. He also makes Josh Culp’s top 25 performers in the wind. I smell a first major for Rickie.

Louis Oosthuizen (DK $8300, $7800, FDR $14900) - I really like the 8k range this week, and I like Louis to light it up since it is a major. YTD, his stats suit this course well (14th T2G, 28th TBS, 15th BA and 45th DA). In his last 24 rounds for the field, he is 18th T2G, 53rd SGAPP, 7th SGOTT and 2nd BA. His recent form has been few but hasn’t missed a cut in his last 3 tournaments in the last 10 weeks (23, 18, 2). He is a prior winner of the Open in 2010 at St. Andrews and runner up in 2015 also at St. Andrews. So, he can handle big events. He’ll be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Paul Casey (DK $8100, FD $7800, FDR $15500) - Just below Oostie is a great value play in Englishman Paul Casey. He is in great form in the last 11 weeks making 5 of 5 cuts with nothing worse than 26th (5, 26, 10, 22, 12). He did play at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and finished at +12 good for T7. Since then, he has made 5 of 7 cuts at the Open with a best 3rd in 2010 at St. Andrews. He is my highest rated golfer in my own model and has great stats YTD (9th T2G, 7th SGAPP, 17th TBS, 2nd BA, 3rd BS and 40th DA). In the last 24 rounds for the field, he is 12th T2G, 6th SGAPP, 30th SGOTT and 4th BA. And he is top 25 in the wind. A good play in all formats.

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Patrick Reed - (DK $7900, FD $7900, FDR $14700) - Moving into the 7k range, Patrick Reed is the first golfer that peaks my interest. He started 2017 fairly slowly but has been more steady in the last 12 weeks where he hasn’t missed a cut in 8 events (20, 17, 5, 13, 57, 20, 22, 12). YTD his stats are not that impressive (79th T2G, 133rd SGAPP, 86th TBS, 100th BA and 131th DA) but in his last 24 rounds he has rebounded quite a bit (39th T2G, 43rd SGAPP, 50th SGOTT, 7th SGP and 11th BA in the field). He has not played at Royal Birkdale but has made 2 of 3 cuts at the Open since 2014 (12, 20, MC). He may not be a great cash play but he has been trending upward and makes a great GPP play.

Francesco Molinari (DK$7300, FD $6900, $13400) - Next up is a bargain ball striker in Molinari. He is actually number 2 in my model and he fits the bill for this course (YTD 4th T2G, 2nd SGAPP, 3rd TBS, 30th BA, 19th BS and 3rd DA). In the last 24 rounds in the field he is 3rd T2G, 24th SGOTT, 2nd SGAPP and 48th BA). He did not play in 2008 but since then, he is 6 of 8 made cuts in the Open (36, 40, 15, 9, 39, MC, MC, 13), and currently he has made 6 of 7 cuts in the last 14 weeks including two top 6s (38, MC, 24, 2, 6, 24, 22). He can also play well in the wind. He should feel quite comfortable here and is playable in all formats.

Hitting an Albatross (DK salary < 7k and < 5% ownership). Dan Berger (DK $6700, FD $7100, FDR $13400) - In the sub 7k range Daniel Berger sticks out to me as a good play. YTD, he is 30th T2G, 19th SGAPP, 18th TBS, 26th BA, 28th BS and 98th DA. Over the last 24 rounds he even looks better (13th T2G, 11th SGAPP, 20th SGOTT and 3rd BA). He missed the cut on his maiden voyage to the Open in 2015 but his current form is very good making 4 of 5 cuts in the last eleven weeks including a win at the St. Jude and runner up at the Travelers. He is also good in the wind. I think he will be a low owned, sneaky play good in all formats.

Other strong considerations include Marc Leishman (DK $7800, FD $6800, FDR $14900) who is 9th in T2G in the last 24 rounds in the field, Ian Poulter (DK $7500, FD $6200, $13700) who was a runner up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and Matt Kuchar (DK $7200, FD $7500, FDR $14100) who is your cut maker extraordinaire and can play well in the wind.

Anyway, I hope that this helps you in your own process to select your golfers for this week. Please leave me any questions, comments, suggestions or any rants and touts you would like to discuss either here on, on twitter @algertorr, or on DK/FD/FDR jayalger. Good luck this week!