Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Fantasy Golf: The British Open Preview

Have we ever needed a major more than we need the 2018 British Open? As if Patrick Reed winning the Masters wasn't bad enough. As if the USGA botching another U.S. Open wasn't bad enough. As if Webb Simpson turning the joke that is TPC Sawgrass into an even bigger joke wasn't bad enough. On top of that mountain of badness, we are coming-off a truly dismal four week stretch of pedestrian leaderboards and blowouts by winners that make you go "meh." When you then factor-in Justin Thomas' blowout win at the 2017 PGA Championship, it hits you that we haven't had a compelling major since this time last year and that we have entered desperate times.

The good news is that the British Open has recently delivered in the form of world class winners (Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson) and stacked leaderboards (you have to go back a ways to find more than two totally random top ten finishers in the same year). We won't have Joe Buck and Paul Azinger assaulting our senses or that overall Fox Sports cheesy production quality that permeates the whole experience.   

"Hey you remembered to change
that pin on 13 right Normy?"
The tournament has a few built-in advantages with its start times, linksy conditions and that unique British Open crowd vibe that you can even feel right through the TV machine. And as I noted during my bashing of the U.S. Open last month, thanks to the USGA's management style which ranks them on a quality control scale somewhere between [insert name of your cable company] and the regulars at Cheers, the British Open has firmly established itself as at least the second best major. 

But enough of the pleasantries. Let's get down to the business of who is going to win this thing. The last time they played Carnoustie was in 2007 and the final leaderboard didn't leave a lot of mystery as to the type of player the course favored. Padraig Harrington won it in a playoff over Sergio Garcia and they were joined at the top by the likes of Andres Romero, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, K.J. Choi, Ben Curtis, Steve Stricker and Mike Weir. What do all of those guys have in common besides being painfully awkward dancers? They all hit it so straight that the could play an entire season with one sleeve of balls and, in the case of Stricker, probably still have two leftover at the end.  

The results from 1999 aren't quite as probative (I know all the best words) but you still had Justin Leonard making the playoff and a top ten that featured Craig Parry, David Frost, Scott Dunlap and Jim Furyk. You millennial types might not recognize some of those names but trust me when I tell that they're all a very poor man's version of Zach Johnson.  


What about guys who have recently played well at the British Open in general FGR? Well I'm glad you asked because I wrote this paragraph first and then found it didn't fit my narrative. Since 2012, Rory, McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman and Adam Scott have combined for twelve finishes of 6th or better. A whole slew of players have had multiple top tens over that same span including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, and Matt Kuchar. But the most impressive overall record goes to the aforementioned Zach Johnson with a win, a T6, T9, T12 and T14. His only off year in the last six was a T47 in 2014 and he just closed-out the John Deere Classic with a weekend of 67-64 (I think you see where I'm headed with this . . . at least I hope you do).


The conditions this week are going to be extremely British Openy with rock hard fairways, slow greens and more craters than the moons of Uranus (never not funny). The leaderboard is going to be dominated by steady, patient and unflappable players like Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson (just kidding . . . those guys don't have a chance). If I had every player at my disposal this week, I'd be torn between Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren and Zach Johnson. Of those three, Noren is the only one I've burned so it's between Koepka or ZJ. The bomber or the straight shooter? Hmmm. Fuck it. I'm going with ZJ. No way Koepka wins two majors in a row right? Right? Dammit. Maybe? God I hate this business.  


In addition to my three favorites, I have thoroughly analyzed the data to deliver you seven more super value picks. The only issue is that I'm missing that random upstart Euro Tour player who inevitably crashes the top ten like Matthew Southgate last year, Andrew Johnston in 2016 and Victor Dubuisson in 2014. My Chris Wood pick feels like a bit of a cop-out. Maybe take a look at Eddie Pepperell or Dylan Fritelli despite the fact that that have race car driver names.

I still don't know why Eddie abandoned
his birth name of "Rutger Hauer, Jr."
One and Done Pick: Zach Johnson

Other Guy I'd Pick: Brooks Koepka


Sleeper Pick: Stewart Cink


The DraftKings Top Ten Values    


Brooks Koepka
$9,200
Sergio Garcia
$9,000
Paul Casey
$8,700
Francesco Molinari
$8,600
Alex Noren
$8,300
Marc Leishman
$8,000
Chris Wood
$7,300
Zach Johnson
$7,200
Emiliano Grillo
$6,800
Steward Cink
$6,600

Now let's devote a few words to some of the favorites I eschewed and why. A lot of people are pushing Tyrell Hatton under the "Mark
O'Meara Theory." O'Meara used to dominate the regular tour stops at Pebble Beach in the late 80's and early 90's so, when the U.S. Open would land there, everyone would be all like "Mark O'Meara this and Mark O'Meara that" while completely ignoring the fact that they tend to toughen-up the course a bit for the majors and the field for a U.S. Open is tad bit more formidable than the field for a pro-am event featuring Jack Lemon, Clint Eastwood and five schticky Vegas comedians. O'Meara missed the cut at the 1992 U.S. Open and finished T51 in 2000 so purchase the Tyrell Hatton hype at your peril.

Who else do I need to shoot down? Jon Rahm? Not a British Open style player. Tommy Fleetwood? Feels like he's a year away. Rickie Fowler? He'll shoot 76-68 on the weekend to finish tied for 12th. Patrick Reed? We've suffered enough. Justin Rose? (He'll never win a British Open. (There I said it). Dustin Johnson? Will lose focus and blow-up on Saturday. Rory McIlroy? He'll check-out after the third bad bounce on Thursday. Tiger Woods? This isn't the British Open he's going to win. (There I said that too).   

That's all I got. Almost everything you need to know to draw your own conclusions can be found in the chart below which lists the players you should consider when wagering your hard-earned scratch. I can't include all of them because that would be too unwieldy so guys who have zero British Open experience and/or lack other notable credentials don't make the cut. If you want to spend $7,500 of cap space on Luke List or Patrick Cantlay, I can't stop you but don't say I didn't try. 

                         THE BRITISH OPEN - A FIVE YEAR RETROSPECTIVE


DK Price
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
Dustin Johnson
$11,300
T54
T9
T49
T12
T32
Rory McIlroy
$11,000
T4
T5
DNP
1st
MC
Jordan Spieth
$10,600
1st
T30
T4
T36
T44
Justin Rose
$10,200
T54
T22
4th
T24
T33
Justin Thomas
$10,000
MC
T53
DNP
DNP
DNP
Jon Rahm
$9,800
T44
T59
DNP
DNP
DNP
Rickie Fowler
$9,700
T54
T33
T30
T36
T19
T. Fleetwood
$9,400
T27
MC
MC
MC
DNP
Brooks Koepka
$9,200
T6
DNP
T10
T67
MC
Sergio Garcia
$9,000
T37
T5
T6
T2
T21
Tiger Woods
$8,900
DNP
DNP
MC
69th
T6
Jason Day
$8,800
T27
T22
T4
T58
T32
Paul Casey
$8,700
T11
MC
T74
T30
MC
F. Molinari
$8,600
MC
T36
T40
T15
T9
H. Matsuyama
$8,500
T14
MC
T18
T39
T6
Patrick Reed
$8,400
MC
T12
T20
MC
DNP
Alex Noren
$8,300
T6
T46
DNP
DNP
W/D
Henrik Stenson
$8,200
T11
1st
T40
T39
2nd
Phil Mickelson
$8,100
MC
2nd
T20
T23
1st
Marc Leishman
$8,000
T6
T53
T2
T5
MC
Tyrell Hatton
$7,900
MC
T5
MC
MC
MC
Branden Grace
$7,900
T6
T72
T20
T36
T64
Bubba Watson
$7,800
T27
T39
MC
MC
T32
Ian Poulter
$7,800
T14
DNP
MC
MC
T32
Adam Scott
$7,800
T22
T43
T10
T5
T3
Matt Kuchar
$7,700
2nd
T46
T58
T54
T15
Russell Knox
$7,700
MC
T30
MC
MC
MC
B. DeChambeau
$7,600
DNP
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
R. Cabrera-Bello
$7,600
T4
T39
T40
MC
T21
M. Fitzpatrick
$7,600
T44
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
Shane Lowry
$7,500
MC
MC
MC
T9
T32
Brandt Snedeker
$7,300
DNP
T22
MC
T58
T11
Chris Wood
$7,300
T14
W/D
DNP
T23
T64
Tony Finau
$7,200
T27
T18
DNP
DNP
DNP
Zach Johnson
$7,200
T14
T12
1st
T47
T6
Webb Simpson
$7,200
T37
T39
T34
MC
T64
Lee Westwood
$7,200
T27
T22
T49
MC
T3
Andy Sullivan
$7,200
T70
T12
T30
DNP
DNP
Ross Fisher
$7,100
T44
MC
T68
MC
DNP
Charl Schwartzel
$7,000
T62
T18
T68
T7
T15
Peter Uihlein
$7,000
T44
DNP
DNP
MC
DNP
Jason Dufner
$6,900
T14
T22
T58
T51
T26
Russell Henley
$6,900
T37
MC
T20
MC
T73
Emiliano Grillo
$6,800
MC
T12
DNP
DNP
DNP
Stewart Cink
$6,600
MC
DNP
T20
T47
T26

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com
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