Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The British Open Preview

Fact: The last major to be decided by less than two strokes happened over a year ago and the drama involved a chain smoking fat guy from Argentina who's nickname is "The Duck" and a Burbury model from Australia with a caddie who lacks an appreciation for the art of photography.

Fact: Three of the last four British Opens have been decided by three or more strokes including snoozers in 2010 (Louis Oosthuizen by 7) and 2011 (Darren Clarke by 3).

So we have converging trends indicating that we are freakin' due for some excitement on Sunday. (I'm going to keep predicting it until it happens dammit). The question before us now is therefore who will provide it? I'll be forthright with you mate, I don't feel particularly good about any of the favorites. This golf season has been so random. Every time you think a player is getting hot and coming to a course where he has had success in the past, he falls on his face and a guy like Brendon Todd, Steven Bowditch or Matt Every walks over him to collect the trophy. Why would we think this week will be any different? Especially considering that it's the British Open where Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and past their primes Ernie Els and Tom Watson happen. On the other hand, we have been on a decent run of quality major winners dating back to Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship win in 2011 (remember, he was just a relative unknown at that point with a really annoying pre-shot routine as opposed to the credentialed player with the really annoying pre-shot routine that he is now).

It's still too soon isn't it?
So what to do? Well, with that run of quality major winners and all of the high caliber players floating around, you'd be kind of foolish not to pick one so I'm sticking with the FGR strategy of stocking the top five and then sprinkling 6-10 with some longer shots. Remember that I don't put the same player at the top twice so Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Justin Rose aren't available but even if they were, I'd go with Henrik Stenson who has found his form coming off a string of three straight top fives. He also has a 2nd and two 3rds in his last six British Opens.

As for the alternatives, it appears that Adam Scott will be a consistent threat at every major for the foreseeable future. Justin Rose has been on fire the past few weeks though his British Open track record is very spotty, a fact often overlooked because (a) he is British and (b) he had that amazing run as an amateur . . . 16 years ago. Martin Kaymer has been the best player in the world since he won The Players in May and backed that up with a blowout at the U.S. Open. They would all be shrewd picks that would have you bubbling with optimism at 4:00 a.m. EST on Thursday to the extent that you can be bubbling with anything at that hour other than the symptoms of a Red Lobster all you can eat shrimp dinner gone horribly wrong.

The Brits appear to have stepped-
up their Miss Universe game.
And then there is Sergio Garcia, the guy we all dislike but now can barely remember why. Here is all you need to know about how generally disregarded Sergio has been for the last five years. He is rarely mentioned anymore in the "best player never to win a major" discussion that currently includes Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Jordan, Spieth, Dustin Johnson, etc. despite the fact that he has a whopping eighteen top tens in those events including a run of six in the British Open from 2001 through 2007. And remember, the British Open is also the Redemption Open as it's the only one Greg Norman ever won, it's where Darren Clarke finally got his and it's where Phil Mickelson was able to partially recover from the Merion fiasco. Sergio is also playing great this year with a tie for 2nd at the Travelers, a 3rd at The Players and a 3rd at the Houston Open. In his last event, he shot 65 in the final round to finish three shots off the lead at the BMW International. After that rundown, I've almost talked myself into picking him but if I'm going to risk having my weekend ruined, it's not going to be by Sergio taking the lead into Sunday and then tanking with a 75.

If you're looking for some slightly longer shots, I like Victor Dubuisson because he has the kind of scrappy game that is going to score him some top tens in majors over his career. For the part of the inevitable young European upstart, I'd go with Danny Willett who is on a nice run of T3, T8 and T11 over his last three events and he finished tied for 15th at the British last year so it's not his first rodeo. I also have a hunch about Francesco Molinari this year. Maybe it's because I just spent the past week molesting the Italian language while trying to order dinner and buy bus tickets so I've got a lot of "ini" and "ari" on the brain.*

OK, it's getting punchy. Let's move on to this week's picks and the requisite photo montage that causes half of you to skip this inspired writing anyway . . . you horny sons a bitches.         

Well played Britain. 
The British Open Favorites

1. Justin Rose - 14 to 1
2. Adam Scott - 16 to 1
2. Rory McIlroy - 16 to 1
2. Henrik Stenson - 16 to 1
5. Tiger Woods - 22 to 1
5. Martin Kaymer - 22 to 1
7. Sergio Garcia - 25 to 1
7. Phil Mickelson - 25 to 1
9. Graeme McDowell - 28 to 1
10. Dustin Johnson - 33 to 1
10. Jordan Spieth - 33
12. Jason Day - 35 to 1
13. Matt Kuchar - 40 to 1
14. Bubba Watson - 40 to 1
15. Rickie Fowler - 40 to 1

The FGR British Open Picks
Well played indeed.

1. Henrik Stenson
2. Adam Scott
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Justin Rose
5. Martin Kaymer
6. Victor Dubuisson
7. Brandt Snedeker
8. Danny Willett
9. Matt Kuchar
10. Francesco Molinari

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Footnote

* As an American, it is very difficult to order dinner in Italy without recalling the classic rant by Paul Dooley in Breaking Away (arguably the greatest movie dad of all-time):

"No I don't feel lucky to be alive . . . I feel
lucky I'm not dead. There's a difference." 
Dad: What is this?

Mom: It's sauteed zuchini.

Dad: It's "itey" food. I don't want no "itey" food.

Mom: It's not. I got it at the A&P. It's like squash.

Dad: I know "itey" food when I hear it. It's all of them "eenie" foods . . . zucchini and linguine and fettuccine. I want some American food dammit! I want French fries!