In the main fantasy preview this week, we looked at how PGA Tour players rank in the areas that might be important this week, but we should not forget those plying their trade mainly on the European Tour, as several of those guys will be involved at Royal St. Georges.
This is perhaps the biggest example of an event where the real cream of the crop from both tours come together in numbers to battle it out, and it would be surprising if some of those playing primarily on the PGA Tour’s European equivalent didn’t get scale the heights in Kent.
Below are the five same key categories that feature in the fantasy preview, but this time the top ten’s that follow are made up of those players in the field who mainly play on the European Tour.
Strokes gained putting: Garrick Higgo, Lucas Herbert, Lee Westwood, Matt Wallace, Tommy Fleetwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Andy Sullivan, Jason Scrivner, Danny Willett, Marcus Armitage.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Tyrell Hatton, Bernd Wiesberger, Ryan Fox, Matthias Schwab, Robert MacIntyre, Daniel Van Tonder, Shane Lowry, Kurt Kitayama, Tommy Fleetwood, Christian Bezuidenhout.
Scrambling: Takumi Kanaya, Robert MacIntyre, Matt Wallace, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Christian Bezuidenhout, Viktor Perez, Aaron Rai, Richard Bland, Lucas Herbert, Tyrell Hatton.
Sand saves: Lucas Herbert, Christian Bezuidenhout, Andy Sullivan, Johannes Veerman, Kurt Kitayama, Martin Kaymer, Aaron Rai, Garrick Higgo, Louis De Jager, Bernd Wiesberger.
Strokes gained: around-the-green: Kurt Kitayama, Tyrell Hatton, Takumi Kanaya, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Robert MacIntyre, Ryan Fox, Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Harding, Mathias Schwab.
So, keeping this in mind, which European Tour players look set for a big week in Sandwich? We’ve highlighted three players, players who for a selection of reasons appear to have lots going for them ahead of what should be a fantastic four days of golf at the 149th Open Championship.
European Tour wins: 1
Top 10’s this season: 3
- Second-best European Tour player in this field for scrambling.
- fifth best European Tour player in this field for both strokes gained: tee-to-green and strokes gained: around-the-green.
- Made the cut in each of his three majors to date.
It’s been a real breakthrough campaign for 24-year-old Robert MacIntyre, who announced himself to the wider golfing public with some excellent golf on debut at Augusta earlier in the season, finishing T12. Despite being inexperienced, the Scotsman had certainly been overawed by the big occasions yet, which bodes well ahead of this week. He’s spoken before about his fondness for links golf, and the challenge here won’t be unfamiliar to him.
As one of the best scramblers on the European Tour, MacIntyre has the skills to score well here, especially as strong tee-to-green and around the green, two areas that are going to be key this week. In 2019, before he was known to anyone outside of hardcore European Tour fans, the youngster showed that he’s got the game to cut it with the best in the pressure cooker of an Open Championship, finishing sixth at Royal Portrush.
There will be a whole host of players out there on Thursday who, for one reason or another, can do the business, but of the lesser-known quantities, or less popular sportsbook picks, which he must go down as at odds of +6600, MacIntyre is up there with the best.
Best bet: Top 20 Finish @ +275
European Tour wins: 6
Top 10’s this season: 3
- Finished inside the top 10 in two of the last four renewals of the Open Championship.
- Best European Tour player in the field in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green.
- Second-best European Tour player in the field for strokes gained: around-the-green.
- Best player on the European Tour for strokes gained: total, this season.
Like many players who’ve featured on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour, Tyrrell Hatton has long shaped as though he’s a man capable of getting over the line in a big one. Not only is the Englishman one of the best players in Europe, but he’s also one of the best players in the world right now, as a ranking of tenth proves. He’s the only one British player, and one of two non-Americans, inside the world’s top ten at present.
It’s been a solid campaign for Hatton, who kicked 2021 off with a win in Abu Dhabi, and he’s since recorded a top ten in Europe, as well as two top tens on the PGA Tour. Additionally, of the four majors, this is probably the one that he’s most suited to, as his sixth-place finish in 2019 showed. The measured approach required to battle it round a windswept St. Georges isn’t likely to phase a man who played plenty of good golf in treacherous conditions before, while his final round of 65 at the Scottish Open last week showed a player that is ready for the tough test.
If it’s a European Tour regular that you’re on the lookout for this week, then look no further than the man who leads that tour in strokes gained: total, gaining an average of +2.39.
Best bet: Top 10 Finish @ +300
European Tour wins: 3
Top 10’s this season: 2
- Second best European Tour player in the field in terms of strokes gained: total.
- Is one of the top ten European Tour players at this tournament in three important strokes gained categories.
After a relatively low-key performance that saw him finish in a tie for 51st in 2018, this will be Lucas Herbert’s second-ever appearance at the Open Championship, and while that introduction didn’t exactly scream future winner, the Aussie comes here in good shape. Played some superb golf last week to finish T4 at the Scottish Open, a solid warm-up if ever there was one, while he ranks well in many of the areas that are deemed to be valuable this week, leading the European Tour players in this field when it comes to sand saves. Getting it up and down out of the sand this week could easily be one of the factors of success, so this isn’t something to ignore.
His scoring in Scotland last week was consistent, shooting under 70 in each of his four rounds, which bodes well, especially since there are clear similarities between The Renaissance Club at North Berwick and Royal St. Georges.
At the end of the day, we’re talking about an in-form player, a player who should be full of confidence after a strong display in similar conditions last week, and finally, a player who has the game to do well at a venue of this nature.
Best Bet: Top 20 Finish @ +333