It is time to hit the links.
After a run of birdie-fests on the PGA Tour lately, the golf community can focus on the final major of the year, The Open Championship.
A strong field, headlined by hometown lad Rory McIlroy ($9,300) heads to Northern Ireland to tackle a course where fellow Irishmen Graeme McDowell ($6,300) and Darren Clarke ($5,00) also have strong ties.
Links golf is entertaining to watch and given the time difference this looms as a great event for Australian and New Zealand viewers, making it a perfect time to climb into some DFS golf.
Royal Portrush Golf Club will play host. You will likely have read all about how McIlroy shot the course record of 61 as a 16-year-old.
Portrush has two 18-hole layouts, the Dunluce Links, which will be on display this week, and the Valley Links. Two holes from the Valley Links have been moved into the front nine of the course that will be used for The Open and given the other changes that have happened since McIlroy’s 61, that record is slightly irrelevant here.
Harry Colt designed the course and the greens are predominantly bentgrass. Fairways will be wide but the rough extremely penal if players go off the beaten track.
It looks a fairly traditional links track with plenty of run-offs from the greens, meaning a good short game will be important. You might also see a lot of players putting from off the green.
The par-71 course should play 7,317 yards and Italy’s Francesco Molinari ($7,500) is the defending champion.
The top 70 and ties will make the cut from the 156-man field. Unlike regular PGA Tour events, there will be no MDF in play.
Getting 9/9 through the cut, like every week, will put you ahead of the pack. There’s a wide range of players with strong Open Championship form who should be looked at.
There’s $5K on offer in the $15 Moneyball GPP this week and a 9/9 lineup will be nearly a must if you want to take top spot.
Wild weather can strike at any time in this part of the world, so check your lineups before the first tee off to see if there’s potential times to avoid for your players.
Who do we like?
Largely we want players in form and if there’s a tiebreaker required, I will lean towards those with links experience.
European Tour players may not be household names but they have greater experience on links tracks, as opposed to more well-known PGA Tour members.
In recent years, Open Championship winners have usually come in with hot form. Also, no golfer since Johnny Miller in 1976 has won The Open without playing competitively since the U.S. Open. Therefore, players who have taken a long layoff since Pebble Beach could potentially be avoided.
I want players who can scramble, have a degree of accuracy from the tee and are strong with their irons.
This week I will toss up two leans per category and one fade.
My statistics come via Fantasy National, a useful study tool. When I am referencing a player’s past 24 rounds, that is in comparison to the field and the past 24 tracked rounds each player has completed.
$8 and $9K Range
Rory McIlroy ($9,300) – It’s not revolutionary, but I can’t avoid Rory this week. The Irishman is playing near his hometown on a course where he has great vibes. His Open Championship record is unreal with four top-five finishes, including a win in his past four starts. Stats-wise, he’s No 1 in this field for ball-striking across the past 24 rounds. Therefore, it’s rather hard to leave him out.
Jon Rahm ($8,500) – The lack of previous Open success is a worry but Rahm is coming in hot this week. He won the Irish Open two weeks ago, which backed up two top-three finishes in his prior two starts. The Spaniard has a great links pedigree and is supremely confident.
Tiger Woods ($8,200) – The veteran hasn’t played since the U.S. Open and this cold Irish weather doesn’t line up for a man with a dodgy back.
Patrick Cantlay ($7,200) – The American tyro is the top of my statistical model, overall. He’s fourth in the field for ball-striking across the past 24 rounds. Cantlay also leads the PGA Tour in scrambling this season. Above all, he’s made 10 cuts in 11 major appearances.
Adam Scott ($7,000) – The worry about Scott is that he hasn’t played since the U.S. Open where his ropey finish cost me an each-way bet (I am not bitter). But playing infrequently doesn’t seem to bother the Australian who targets the majors strongly. His approach and around the green numbers have been great lately and because he’s made nine straight cuts at The Open, I can’t avoid him.
Rickie Fowler ($7,400) – Fowler is sporting a mullet, which I can respect. The problem is, he’s trying to make some changes with his golf swing and the results haven’t been pretty. He missed the cut last week at the Scottish Open and brings little win equity to the equation. It all adds up to a big swerve from me.
Henrik Stenson ($6,700) – Every man and his dog will be on Stenson this week. This is not an earth-shattering pick but given the nine-man rosters of Moneyball, you can eat some chalk and differentiate yourself elsewhere. At this price, Stenson is tough to fade. He made a lone double bogey at the Scottish Open last week but made par or better in 71 of 72 holes. Stenson lifted the Claret Jug in 2016 and I think he could do it again this year.
Rafa Cabrera Bello ($6,000) – RCB rolls into town with some chiselled pipes and three straight top-10 finishes. The Spaniard has plenty of links form and is well-priced in this spot. He doesn’t bring a lot of win equity to the table; however, he’s a solid selection for your roster.
Phil Mickelson ($6,000) – Lefty has hoisted a Claret Jug before but the game hasn’t been in great shape for a while. His Twitter videos have been outstanding of late but his focus on hitting ‘bombs’ hasn’t worked out for his results. In other words, he won’t be in my teams this week.
Tyrrell Hatton ($5,900) – Hatton was T1 in the field for ball-striking at the Scottish Open last week. He’s a great putter on his day and is a proven commodity on links courses. He has a good blow-up in him but that just adds to his character.
Abraham Ancer ($5,800) – Ancer won the Australian Open late last year in breezy conditions and given his accuracy from the tee, he will always be in play. He was T16 at the PGA Championship earlier this year and won’t mind the big occasion.
Alexander Levy ($5,200) – Hardly a bold fade but Levy has missed three cuts at The Open and six of his past seven competitive cuts.
As always, you shouldn’t be in this range. But, if you must …
Chan Kim ($4,800) – Kim plays regularly on the Japan Tour where he won three times in 2017. He was also T11 at the Open Championship in the same year, therefore he seems undervalued here.
Gunn Charoenkul ($4,800) – Another regular on the Japan Tour, Charoenkul has 11 top-10 finishes from 16 pro events across a range of locations this year. Again, you probably shouldn’t be down this low but he gives you good salary relief if you think he can make the cut.
David Duval ($4,800) – Duval last had a top-10 in a pro event in 2011. Don’t do it.