It’s time to cross the pond for the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
The first thing to know is that nobody of importance calls it the British Open. That’s for “newbs” and trust me, you don’t want to be a newb.
Royal Troon in Scotland is a typical course for the Open rotation. It’s a links-style course with narrow fairways, deep pot bunkers and thick fescue that you can only hope your golfers don’t get into this week. But perhaps the biggest challenge that golfers will face this week is the 30+mph winds. The front nine plays runs away from the clubhouse while the back nine snakes back towards the clubhouse. The proximity of the back nine to water makes it much harder with the wind. The front nine won’t see nearly as much wind as the back nine, making it the spot where golfers need to score if they want to stay in contention. The last time the Open was played at Royal Troon was in 2004, which doesn’t really help us with course history or relevant stats to how the course was played. However, here are a few key stats I am targeting for golfers this week.
Strokes Gained off the Tee — Hitting fairways and setting yourself up for easier approaches to these tight greens is going to be very important and tee shots could be the difference maker.
Scrambling — The greens at Royal Troon are small, very small. A little over 50% of greens were hit in 2004 and that number might be closer to 50% this week. Getting up and down from around the green is going to be one of the keys to doing well.
Bogey Avoidance — The back nine is going to play much tougher than the front nine. Golfers must avoid the big numbers and grind out pars on the back nine.
Birdie or Better % — Golfers are going to need to capitalize on the “easiness” of the front nine compared to the back nine if they want to stay in contention. If they can’t make birdies quickly, they are going to be heading home for the weekend.
Without further ado, here are my picks which are designed specifically for the DraftKings Millionaire Maker.
Jason Day ($12,300) — Day should be one of the most popular picks in the Milly Maker, but for good reason. Coming off of a solid top 5 in the WGC Bridgestone and a top 10 in the US Open, he has one of the best recent forms in the field (see Dustin Johnson). He seemed to have figured The Open out with a T4 last year at St. Andrews. He is 29th in scrambling, 4th in birdie or better and it doesn’t hurt that he is the best in the field in strokes gained putting. Not a bad way to start your lineups.
Jordan Spieth ($11,700) — Also coming off a top 5 in the WGC-Bridgestone and a T4 last year at St. Andrews, Spieth didn’t show up like Day did at the US Open, but nevertheless should do well at the Open. He is 21st in strokes gained off the tee, 3rd in birdie or better and 12th in scrambling. He is one of the best course managers on the tour and is mentally able to rebound after poor shots. He always seems to be in contention on Sunday and that’s something I look for in the higher priced guys.
Adam Scott ($10,600) — Four straight years coming in the top 10 at the Open, he has to win it at some point, right? Right? His game sets up really nicely for this course. He is 38th in strokes gained off the tee, but leads the tour in both strokes gained approaching the green as well as strokes gained tee to green. He also finds himself sixth in birdie or better percentage. The only knocks on him are his lack of consistent putting prowess and a subpar short game. I’m not too worried about the short game since he is so deadly with his irons. If he can tame mother nature this week, there is a good chance he takes home the Claret Jug.
Sergio Garcia ($10,000) — Ah, the Spaniard. Widely regarded as one of the best to not take home a major, that could change at Royal Troon. The last three events he played he finished T5 twice and won so he is playing really well. 11th in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee to green, second in GIR% and 10th in birdie or better %. Sergio is similar to Scott in that they both struggle with the flatstick at times and with their short games. Again, not too worried with Sergio. A really strong play this week.
Martin Kaymer ($8,400) — I’m hoping Kaymer is low owned this week because I really like the way he sets up here. The two time major winner has made seven out of eight cuts with a top 10 in his Open history He comes into the tournament with a T13 at the Scottish Open and three top fives in his last five events. Along with all of the other Euro Tour players, we don’t really have many in-depth stats for him but with his recent form, his stats can’t be too poor. This guy knows how to win majors which he could very well do this week.
Patrick Reed ($7,900) — Reed really screwed owners at the US Open so I’m hoping that performance will drive his ownership down. He’s coming into this tournament with a T10 in the Scottish Open so that is a good sign his game is starting to round back into form. Although he only ranks 59th on tour in strokes gained off the tee, he is third in strokes gained around the green. He really gets by with a solid short game which is something that will come in handy around these tricky greens. He also comes in eighth in scrambling. He came T20 at St. Andrews last year and is a good bet to finish similar or better at Royal Troon.
Matt Kuchar ($7,800) — How the hell is Matt Kuchar still under $8,000? The guy is playing out of his mind right now. He sports five top 10’s in his last six events which is highlighted by a T3 at the WGC Bridgestone. All of his stats lineup with this course — 12th in strokes gained tee to green, 33rd in strokes gained around the green, 24th in strokes gained putting, 18th in scrambling, 19th in birdie or better percentage. There will be no surprise when he comes in at one of the highest ownerships in the field, and with good reason. A very strong play.
Francesco Molinari ($7,000) — Molinari rolls into the Open with a second place finish at the Scottish Open and a T8 at the Quicken Loans National. He isn’t the longest player but a very accurate one. He ranks 17th in strokes gained tee to green and 35th in strokes gained around the green. He’s a pretty decent scrambler and if he can get the putter going he has a chance to be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Brandon Stone ($6,700) — The South African plays on the Euro Tour and is having himself quite a year. He just posted a T5 in his last event at the Open de France and has five top 10’s on the tour while making 10/14 cuts. He is currently 94th in the OWGR but comes at a nice price for someone who shouldn’t be owned at all.
Kevin Kisner ($6,700) — Kisner is just a really solid all-around player who has just found his form again. After coming T49 at the US Open, he finished T16 at the WGC Bridgestone. He’s ranked 29th in strokes gained off the tee and 31st in strokes gained putting. He hasn’t putted or scrambled all that well this year but is currently 14th in birdie or better percentage. You can do much worse than someone with five top 10’s and a win this year.
Joost Luiten ($6,500) — Luiten has played really well this year on the Euro Tour. Although he missed the cut at the Scottish Open, that’s only his third missed cut all year as he is 13/16 with eight top 10’s. He is fifth in scoring average on the Euro Tour. To give you a frame of reference, Phil Mickelson ($8,600) is currently fifth in scoring average on the PGA Tour, ahead of golfers like Kuchar, McIlroy, Garcia, Grace, Fowler, Rose, etc… A real bargain for his price.
Ryan Palmer ($6,100) — Palmer’s form coming into the Open isn’t really that inspiring, but he has as much upside for the price as anyone in the field. He has made 14/17 cuts on the tour this year with two top 10’s. He has also made all three cuts at Open Championships, with two 30 place finishes. He is seventh in strokes gained off the tee and 44th in strokes gained tee to green. He is very long of the tee and hits greens at a pretty high clip. With a 13th in birdie or better percentage to top it off, Palmer is one of my favorite value plays.
Richard Sterne ($5,900) — Another South African who is having himself quite a year, Sterne comes into this week fresh off a T13 at the Scottish Open and a T11 at the Open de France. He’s made 8/11 cuts with three top 10 finishes. If he plays half as well as he did at the Scottish, he’ll make the cut and reach value which is more likely than not to pay off his cheap salary.
Colt Knost ($5,900) — I’m really surprised DraftKings made Knost this cheap. He was a late addition to the field, replacing Daniel Berger who WD’d earlier in the week. Knost has been a model of consistency this year. He’s only missed one cut in 19 attempts and sports some decent recent form. Back in May, he took home back-to-back top 5’s at the PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP and the Byron Nelson. A very good scrambler and his accuracy off the tee sure doesn’t hurt this year. Another strong value play.
I have no preference as to playing long hitters over more accurate one’s and vice versa. I’m really just looking for players who can hit greens, scramble and make birdies while avoiding the big numbers. I’m also looking at golfers who have solid Open history as well as golfers who have performed well at PGA National which hosts the Honda Classic. Many of the Open winners who won at Royal Troon have had success at Honda Classic (see Justin Leonard, Todd Hamilton).
Low-Owned Sleepers and Fliers:
Rickie Fowler ($9,900)
Danny Willett ($9,200)
Martin Kaymer ($8,400)
Paul Casey ($7,900)
Graeme McDowell ($7,500)
Jimmy Walker ($7,100)
Paddy Harrington ($6,800)
Bernd Wiesberger ($6,500)
Ross Fisher ($6,400)
Andrew Johnston ($6,400)
Rikard Karlberg ($6,300)
Charley Hoffman ($6,300)
James Morrison ($5,500)
My Pick to Win:
There’s a lot of golfers who I like this week but ultimately I think Sergio Garcia hoists the Claret Jug on Sunday. He’s long off the tee, accurate with his irons and if his putter gets hot, can run away with the lead. Combined with his recent form and past success at Open Championships, I’ll be starting a lot of my Milly Maker lineups with Sergio.