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DraftKings DFS Fantasy Golf Cheat Sheet: 2021 PGA TOUR The Open Picks

Geoff Ulrich gets you set for The Open with winning trends and his picks for your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups.

The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.

Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: PGA TOUR $2.5 Million Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st]



The Field

The field for the years last major consists of approximately 156 golfers and will feature a cutline of the top 70 and ties for the weekend. The field is composed of most of the top players in golf, but there are also a lot of international qualifiers who made through The Open qualifying procedure. Some late withdraws have also occurred due to the COVID-19 protocols set forth by the R&A this year. Hideki Matsuyama (COVID-19) won’t be in the field, and neither will Bubba Watson, who was deemed a close contact. Kevin Na was also late withdraw and has been replaced by Martin Kaymer. Finally, both Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im withdrew to focus on grabbing a medal at the Olympics.

Other than the names mentioned above, most of the top players in the world are in attendance, including all of the OWGR top-10 players. However, with the tighter COVID-19 protocols in play here, watching the news up to tee off will be crucial this week. Defending champion (2019) Shane Lowry is in the field, as are a couple of elder statesmen in past champs Darren Clark (who won here in 2011) and Ernie Els. The cut line this week will see the top 70 players and ties make the weekend.


The Course

Royal St. George’s Golf Club—Sandwich, England

Par 70— 7,204 yards

This will be the 15th time Royal St. George’s has hosted The Open Championship, making it one of the more heavily used venues in The Open rotation. It was last seen a decade ago in 2011 when Darren Clark won his first and only major championship at the age of 42, besting Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson by three strokes. Prior to that, it hosted the championship in 2003 and also gave us another surprise winner in Ben Curtis but saw event favorite Greg Norman win when it hosted in 1993.

The venue plays as a traditional par 70 with just two par 5s and four par 3s. In that regard, strong par-70 players and par-4 scorers from the PGA could have an advantage here, and it is worth noting the last two winners here have not been long off the tee either. Located on the coast at the bottom of the North Sea, St. George’s is essentially what we’d describe as a traditional “seaside” venue, in that it can be affected by drastic wind changes coming from the coast. Eleven of the 12 par 4s here measure in between 400-500 yards, with 400-450 yards (six) being the most popular range.

St. George’s generally sets up as what you’d call a fair but tough links test. Its biggest defenses are the wind and the bunkers — which are some of the deepest in The Open rotation — but there are also Out of Bounds areas that the players must avoid at all costs. In 2011, Dustin Johnson found such OB on the par 5 14th hole, which ruined his chances at the win. In that same year, Thomas Bjorn took three shots to get out of a greenside bunker, which ruined his chances. The large bunkers here definitely mean that “luck” will play a major role, as it does in every Open, but ultimately the good around the green players will also have an advantage this week — considering the degree of difficulty will be ramped up.

Expect a fair links but one that could feature very high scoring if the wind gets up due to the landmine bunkers and the presence of the white stakes.

2021 outlook: Like all Open Championships, the weather this week will play a factor. The early week forecast calls for rain almost every day and that could make for a wet course come Thursday, which has a high of 70F. Winds are expected to be around 15-18 mph over the first two days of play, with Friday afternoon perhaps offering the calmest conditions (this can change at a moment’s notice, so check yourself Wednesday night). The good news is the last three days call for sunny skies, so no huge rain storms should be threatening to stop play. The wind will pick up on the weekend though with gusts of 20-25 MPH expected Saturday and Sunday. Expect higher scores again here if that holds true, and look to target early starters in Showdown lineups this weekend to try and avoid the worst of the wind, if possible.


Last 5 winners

2019 – Shane Lowry – 15 (over Tommy Fleetwood -9)

2018 – Francesco Molinari -8 (over Justin Rose and three others -6)

2017 – Jordan Spieth -12 (over Matt Kuchar -9)

2016 – Henrik Stenson -20 (over Phil Mickelson -18)

2015 – Zach Johnson -15 (over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman, playoff)


Winning Trends

- Six of the last nine winners of The Open Championship have been 35 years of age or older; seven of the last nine have been 32 years of age or older.

- Seven of the last eight winners of The Open Championship had recorded a T20 or better in one of the year’s first two major championships in the year of their victory.

- Fourteen of the last 15 winners of The Open Championship had a T9 or better finish at this event in a previous year, before winning.


Winners Stats and Course Overview

2019 Winner: Shane Lowry (15-under par)

2019 lead-in form (T34-T28-T2-T8-T3)

SG: OTT— 1st

SG: APP— 3rd

SG: TTG— 1st

Scrambling—2nd

We don’t have a ton of past data to look back on since The Open doesn’t track Strokes Gained data. That being said, certain trends among winners and high finishers are out there. The last five winners have all ranked 23rd or better in the year of their win in Strokes Gained: Approach, with 2017 winner Jordan Spieth ranking first in this category and 2018 winner Francesco Molinari ranking 10th. Links golf often isn’t as much about length off the tee as placement, so emphasizing great iron players this week seems like a solid start.

Shane Lowry’s 2019 Open Championship win also emphasizes how important it is to both stay out of trouble and to have the wits to recovery when you do get in trouble. He led the field in SG: OTT stats but also was second in Scrambling for the week. St. George’s isn’t super long, and keeping it in the rolling fairways here will be more important than anything.

As for setup, Royal St. George’s has seen a couple of short hitters win (Curtis-2003, Clark-2011) and the rolling venue has pot bunkers galore, which will likely make any bomb and gauge approach fail. The venue doesn’t have any super short “drivable” par 4s, although six of the par 4s measure in between 400-450 yards — with the roll some may still be gettable. Though, good par-4 scorers should excel on this Par 70. Over the last 50 rounds, Jordan Spieth ($9,700) and Patrick Cantlay ($8,900) rank first and second in par 4 efficiency stats, respectively.


Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.

Matt Fitzpatrick +4000 and $7,900

Comparables:

Daniel Berger +4500 and $7,400

Comparables:

All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.


HORSES FOR COURSES

**With the course being played on this week only being used every 10 years or so, we’ll be looking instead at past Open Championship form instead.

1. Rory McIlroy ($10,900; best finishes: win-2014, T2-2018): McIlroy has racked up lots of top finishes at this event over the last five years or so. The winner of the 2014 Open at Hoy Lake has five finishes of T5 or better over his last eight Open starts, including a T2 in 2018. Over nine career Open Championships, McIlroy has only missed the cut twice and one was at Carnoustie (his first Open) in 2007.

2. Adam Scott ($8,100; best finishes: second-2012, T3-2013): Since 2010, Scott has made the cut in nine of the last 10 Open Championships and has four top-10 finishes to his credit over that span — including a second from back in 2012 when he famously bogeyed the last four holes to lose by a shot. He was T17 in 2018 at Carnoustie and missed the cut in Ireland in 2019 (his first MC in 10 years). He comes in off a T13 at the Travelers and makes for a solid target here.

3. Jordan Spieth ($9,700; best finishes: win-2017, T2-2015): The 2017 winner of this event has now finished T20 or better at this championship in four of the last five seasons and has never missed a cut in seven Open Championship starts. He’s a great links player and makes for a heady pay-up target at under $10K on DraftKings given his resurgent 2021 form.

4. Sergio Garcia ($7,600; best finishes: second-2007, T2-2014): Dating back to 2005, Garcia has seven finishes of T9 or better at The Open, including a heartbreaking playoff loss to Paddy Harrington in 2007 at Carnoustie. He finished T6 here in 2015 and T6 in 2016 but hasn’t cracked the top 10 at this event since. His recent form has been improving of late, so a bounce-back year could be in order.

5. Justin Rose ($8,000; best finishes: T2-2018): Rose ranks third in this field over the last five seasons in SG: Total at The Open Championship. The Englishman finished T2 here in 2018 and T6 in 2016. He’s made the cut in his last six Open Championship appearances.


RECENT FORM

1. Jon Rahm ($11,300; seventh-win): Rahm followed up his U.S. Open win with a solid showing in Scotland last week where he grabbed a seventh-place finish and was leading after 36 holes. He’s the worthy event favorite.

2. Brooks Koepka ($10,700; T5-T4): Koepka has looked very healthy over his last two starts, which have seen him land two top-five finishes, including a T4 at the U.S. Open. The American has gained over +7.5 strokes ball-striking alone in his last two starts.

3. Ian Poulter ($7,200; T4-T36): Poulter has now made six cuts in a row and produced two top-five finishes over his last six starts. He was T4 last week in the Scottish Open warmup event.

4. Matt Fitzpatrick ($7,900; T2-T55-T10): Fitzpatrick lost in a playoff last week in Scotland and enters this major championship in increasingly good form. He was also T10 the Palmetto Championship last month.

5. Lucas Hebert ($6,800; T4-win): Herbert has been on fire of late over in Europe, grabbing a win at the Irish Open two weeks ago and a T4 in Scotland last week. He also finished inside the top 20 at the Memorial and Travelers against PGA competition.


DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games: Trust Spieth’s Open record

We have flexible salaries this week, but saving some money and making Jordan Spieth ($9,700) your anchor here seems like a smart play for core lineups. He’s never missed a cut in seven Open starts and has the kind of short game and iron play to navigate these tricky links setups to perfection. Patrick Cantlay ($8,900) at under $9K here also looks like a good target, then I would start targeting veterans like Adam Scott ($8,100), who is playing better of late and only has one MC at this event over the last decade. Marc Leishman ($7,700), Daniel Berger ($7,400) and Ian Poulter ($7,200) all make for decent value plays here, as well. Kevin Kisner ($6,900) is a name under $7K I would consider given his recent form.

Tournaments: Reed and Hatton make for good Open pivots

Length off the tee typically doesn’t make a massive difference at The Open, and that should help shorter hitters like Patrick Reed ($8,800) and Tyrrell Hatton ($9,000) this week. Given the range they’re in, neither should garner huge ownership numbers, and both have shown very solid form recently. This venue represents a good chance for either man to compete for the major. Jason Day ($7,700) is another veteran type of player who has done well in his last two starts (T14-T10) and has a solid Open record. His putter has been much better of late. Some other veterans to consider here include the likes of Rickie Fowler ($7,300 – see below), Russell Henley ($7,200), Rafa Cabrera Bello ($6,900) and Chris Kirk ($6,400).


MY PICK: Justin Thomas ($9,600)

Thomas comes in off a nice lead-up to the year’s last major championship, which includes a T19 at the U.S. Open and a T8 last weekend over in Scotland on the links. While most don't traditionally think of Thomas as a good links player, his results are starting to suggest otherwise. On top of last week’s T8 in Scotland, Thomas also finished T9 at the same Scottish Open in 2019 and then went on to finish T11 in a wet and windy Open Championship that year, which represented his best Open finish, by far.

We know the skill level to win big events is there for Thomas, and his commitment to conquering the links by playing in the lead-up event is clear. This is also a player who has underrated creativity around the greens — he’s now gained strokes ATG in eight of his last nine starts on TOUR and ranks 16th in SG: ATG stats over the last 50 rounds. In short, if things get tough out there, Thomas does have the short game to play in poor conditions, and his warmup event means he should be more ready for this week’s test. At under $10K, he looks like an absolute steal to me for DFS purposes and a player I could see breaking through for another major this week.


MY SLEEPER: Rickie Fowler ($7,300)

Fowler has been up and down all year, but he really does fit the kind of trends we look for in an Open Champion. At 32 years old, he’s got plenty of experience and will be playing in The Open for the 11th time. Over that span, Fowler has only missed the cut once at this event and has accumulated three finishes of T6 or better, including a T2 from 2014 and a T5 at this very same venue (Royal St. George’s) in 2011. Fowler’s Open experience is definitely a big plus in his column for this week, and his form this year has shown spurts that he’s potentially on the verge of a big week.

After struggling with missed cuts early in 2021, Fowler has now made the weekend in three of his last four starts and is only a couple months removed from a T8 at the year’s second major in Kiawah Island — where only a short miss on the 18th hole kept him out of the top five. Fowler ranked eighth in SG: Tee to Green stats at Kiawah, and he has now gained over +3.0 strokes on his approaches in two of his last four starts, as well. We may again see Fowler “pop” at a major (like he did in May) and — with a nice low $7K salary and solid +8500 odds for the outright on DraftKings Sportsbook — he makes for a good outright and DFS target for me at the last major.

Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: PGA TOUR $2.5 Million Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st]


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