We’ve made it to the third major of the year. The Open Championship starts this week and we’ve got a ton of great PGA DFS contests on DraftKings to talk about. The third Milly Maker of the season is up in the lobby as are other good lower and higher buy-in gpps. As for the tournament itself, it’s being played at Royal Birkdale for the 10th time, and first time since 2008 when Padraig Harrington won in some really nasty weather. As a course, Birkdale is essentially a medium length par 70, but it’s located right on the coast of the Irish Sea, and as a links course can be drastically impacted by high winds and bad weather. In 2008, the winning score here was +3, and while the weather doesn’t look awful at the moment, there will be wind and rain throughout this year’s tournament.
The Course: Birkdale sets up as a traditional par 70, but it’s got a pretty distinctive layout. Almost all of the par 4’s contain some kind of dogleg, making it a tough course to overpower. Given the number of shorter hitters in contention in 2008, it’s doubtful we’ll see a bomber dominate here to the extent that Brooks Koepka did at Erin Hills. Six of the par 4’s actually measure in 450-500 yards so that should be the yardage to look at this week in terms of par 4 scoring.
The Weather: This is the Open and this is a traditional links course so you can bet the weather will factor in at some point. We often see a large draw bias form at the Open but knowing which side it will favour isn’t easy. As of now scattered showers and pretty consistent wind is expected for the first two days so it’s too early to pick a side. If you’re putting in a lot of tournament lineups this week, making stacks from both sides of the draw is probably the safest play; at least until we get some kind of clearer picture for the first two days.
Sergio Garcia ($10,600): Of the top five players in the field this week not only does Sergio have the best Open record, but he’s also got the lowest price. Garcia hasn’t suffered from much of a major hangover after his Masters win and has recorded ten top-10 finishes at this event over his career. Coming in off a T2 in his last start I can’t think of a reason not to take advantage of this price. Outside of Dustin Johnson, he’s maybe the best driver of the golf ball right now and should be able to handle some of the blind tee shots and skinny fairways Birkdale throws at players this week.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800): Many may scoff at this price but if you’re thinking that Fleetwood is too overpriced to roster you should reconsider. With two wins in 2017 he has more on the season than both Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose and comes in without a finish worse than T10 over his last four starts. On a course which looks as if it will favour pure ball-striking I’m not sure why we’d fade the person who has hit the ball the purest and straightest over the past month. His higher price, and concerns over popularity, will likely keep ownership down to a reasonable level in large tournaments on DraftKings.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,500): Matsuyama is another excellent ball-striker with a good blend of accuracy and power off the tee. We don’t necessarily think of Matsuyama as a links specialist but he’s landed two top-20 finishes in four Open starts already. The smaller greens and fairways at Birkdale should favour his tee to green prowess and the fact he warmed up with a nice T14 finish on a links venue at the Irish Open two weeks ago is encouraging. He gets the slight nod over Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler for me in this range, who are also solid plays this week.
Paul Casey ($8,100): We don’t have to love Casey’s lack of finish on Sunday’s, but we have to respect his affordable price and consistency. Casey hasn’t missed a cut since January and hasn’t finished worse than 26th over his last six starts. He’s struck the ball brilliantly over his last two starts (1st in SG: Off the Tee at the Travelers) and also put up a solid T7 finish at this venue back in 2008. He’s a great cash game play this week and may even go semi-overlooked in tournaments as people doubt his ability to win the tournament.
Others: Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler
Alex Noren ($7,800): Noren has not only won the toughest event on the Euro Tour this season, but was also in the hunt at the PLAYERS, and has four top-15 finishes over his last six starts. With five wins over the past year he’s consistently shown to be one of the best ball-strikers in the game when he’s at his best. You’re either a believer or non-believer, but his price is hilariously cheap and—given that the event is in England where he’s won twice in the past year—not taking advantage on DraftKings would be borderline insane, at least in my humble opinion. His missed cut last week and a general lack of respect should also keep ownership levels down.
Charl Schwartzel ($7,300): There’s some pretty talented players down in Schwartzel’s range, but the South African is another excellent ball-striker who shouldn’t go overlooked at a venue like Birkdale. We haven’t seen Charl since the US Open but he’s been close a couple of times already in 2017 and the top ten he put up at Augusta is encouraging. Schwartzel brings an underrated Open record to this event, shouldn’t be overly popular and is very affordable… he’s a great target this week.
Matt Kuchar ($7,200): At this price, you’ll be fooling nobody by rostering Kuchar this week and I highly anticipate he’ll be one of the top-5 most popular plays in DraftKings Milly Maker. That doesn’t make him a bad play necessarily, especially at this tournament where his win probability is likely higher than at any other major. Kuchar hasn’t finished worse than T16 in his last five starts, and tee to green has been one of the best players on the planet the last month. He’s great value but understand he’ll be a popular play this week.
Steve Stricker ($6,900): I’m on team Stricker this week and actually think the now 50-year old has a legitimate shot at winning. Yes, he doesn’t hit it far off the tee, but wind, rain and the numerous doglegs on Royal Birkdale could mitigate that weakness. The fact Stricker actually ranks third in par 4 efficiency from 450-500 yards is also extremely interesting since six of Birkdale’s par 4’s fall within that range. He hasn’t missed the cut in his last nine Opens and is coming off a week where he ranked fourth in SG: Approaches at the JD Classic.
Others: Marc Leishman, Bernd Wiesberger
High-upside GPP Picks
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,300): Sandwiched between some good value plays in the high 7k range and popular players in the 8k range (like Adam Scott and Phil), Oosthuizen likely won’t get high ownership this week, making him a fine target in larger gpps. The South African hasn’t missed a cut anywhere since last years Open and has dramatically bettered his play on and around the greens this season, as he ranks top 30 in around the green and putting stats on the PGA. He’s been close a couple times already this year and breaking through for a second Open win here isn’t out of the question.
Russell Henley ($7,000): At 25th in SG: Off the Tee and 11th in SG: Putting, there’s not many players with a better blend of accurate driving and timely putting in the field than Henley. He was in contention at the US Open and also posted his best finish ever at Augusta this year with a T11. With a bunch of longer par-4’s this venue might suit him the best however and he makes for a great tournament play. With wins in Hawaii and Florida already he’s also proven he can handle a bit of wind too.
Ross Fisher ($6,700): Fisher is in the midst of a great 2017, putting up solid finishes on both sides of the pond. The Englishman has quietly snuck up to 43rd in the world rankings and boosts a strong approach game which has him ranked 10th in GIR on the Euro Tour. He also boosts a good links record and has experience playing Birkdale as he was T39 at this event in 2008. He’s a great gpp target and good swerve off of popular plays like Berger and Cabrera-Bello this week.
Other: David Horsey, Richard Bland
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar, Charl Schwartzel, Alex Noren
– Bernd Wiesberger, Marc Leishman, Ross Fisher, Steve Stricker, Louis Oosthuizen, Russell Henley, David Horsey, Dick Bland
Paul Casey 36-1
Louis Oosthuizen 55-1
Matt Kuchar 67-1
Alex Noren 50-1 EW
Bernd Wiesberger 125-1 EW
Steve Stricker 200-1 EW