The last major of the season is finally upon us. The best in the business will travel to England this week, where the Open Championship will be held at Royal St. Georges in Sandwich, Kent. The only one of the four majors to be held outside of the states, the Open Championship will be played for the first time since 2019, when Irishman Shane Lowry romped to victory at Dunluce Course.
Before we get into this week’s action, as always, here’s a quick recap of last week’s fantasy picks.
It wasn’t an amazing week for all the picks, but there were certainly a few shining lights. Both Kevin Streelman and Dylan Frittelli missed the cut, though tournament specialist Zach Johnson performed predictably well, finishing at -10, with a four-under-par third round being his highlight.
Must-have player Russell Henley rewarded his buyers with some strong scoring, carding only four bogeys, as well as a bogey-free round of 66 on day two, finishing the tournament T11 at -14. The standout performer was Adam Schenk, who proved to be an excellent buy, going under par in all four rounds, finishing T4 at -16. It’s fair to say that Schenk more than outplayed his cheap price tag.
The Field at The Open Championship
Many of the world’s best golfers opted out of the John Deere Classic last week, some choosing to play in the Scottish Open, such as Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and world no. 2 Jon Rahm, while some chose other preparations, but the cream of the crop will be out in force come Thursday. Each of the world’s current top ten will feature, as will other big-name players such as Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, and 2017 Open Winner Jordan Spieth.
There have been a few withdrawals at the start of this week. 2015 winner Zach Johnson will not feature, while COVID protocols have dictated that both April’s Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama and double-major winner Bubba Watson are both set to miss out too.
The Course at Royal St. George’s, Sandwich, Kent
Royal St. George’s
Sandwich, Kent, England
The venue of the very first open played on British soil back in 1894, Royal St. George’s has been a mainstay on the list of courses used for this championship. The Sandwich track, which provides players with one of the truest links tests in golf, will host this tournament for the 15th time, and for the first time since 2011, when Darren Clarke turned out to be the unlikely winner, beating Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson by three shots to win the first and only major of his career.
One of the toughest courses even the most seasoned pro can face, Royal St. George’s tests every aspect of a golfer’s game. The seaside beast requires a measured approach and can deliver tournament-ending blows in an instant to those who take their eye off the ball.
With its open layout hugging the east Kent coastline, St. George’s is not shielded from the elements in any way. The wind coming in off the English Channel can be fierce and uncompromising, while deadly rough and huge bunkers add to the difficulty of the challenge. Unsurprisingly, going low in terms of the score is hard to do at this venue. In 2011, Clarke won with a total score of just -5, with his nearest challengers at -2.
Controlled play will be the order of the day for players, as Luke Donald, who was world number one at the time, noted back in 2011, when he said: “You’re having to manipulate the ball a lot more, really control it, especially when you get windy conditions like today. A lot more control of the golf ball is needed.”.
What does it take to win an Open Championship?
History shows us that links experience is critical.
Those who are battle-hardened and used to carefully fighting their way round tough, wind-hit, links courses often do well at this tournament. Long hitting can obviously be a benefit, as is often the case, but it’s not imperative, while those wild big hitters, who often go all over the place off the tee tend to struggle on controlled play demanding courses such as St. Georges. Steady play will be key, scrambling will play a big part and clinical putting is a must.
To win here, top play with the flat stick will be required, there’s no doubt about it.
Strong play around the greens will be big this week, so too will be the ability to scramble. The bunkers should be noted as well, as they are deep and downright scary. Sand saves will be important this week, so it’s worth keeping an eye on which players have made a habit of saving themselves out of the sand traps this season.
Below are some key categories ahead of this week, complete with the top ten players (that will feature in this event) on the PGA Tour. We look at those on the European Tour separately here. These categories aren’t everything, but they will no doubt be important, and thus those players who rank highly in said areas should do well.
Strokes gained putting: Louis Oosthuizen, Christian Bezuidenhout, Jason Kokrak, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Kisner, Cameron Smith, Brian Harman, Adam Scott.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau.
Scrambling: Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Harris English, Cameron Tringale, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, Jason Day.
Sand saves: Webb Simpson, Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Russell Henley, Byeong Hun An, Christian Bezuidenhout, Louis Oosthuizen. Strokes gained: around-the-green: Danny Willett, Christian Bezuidenhout, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth.
|Odds To Win +2000|
|Draft Kings $10,000|
|Xander Schauffele is one of the best players in the world of golf right now, and his day with a big win surely isn’t far away. Few players have performed better or more consistently than Xander in majors over the last few seasons, as the 27-year-old has recorded a quite ridiculous eight top-five-finishes in majors since 2017. Like the guy we’re going to look at below, he too seems to fit the profile of a player that will relish the test at St. Georges, ranking very highly among his PGA Tour counterparts in areas such as strokes gained: putting, tee-to-green. Not to mention sand saves, which really could be a big thing this week. The cream often rises in the big events and Xander is certainly the cream in any field. If recent history tells us anything it’s that fantasy players are unlikely to feel let down if they draft Schauffele.|
|Odds To Win +3000|
|Draft Kings $9,300|
|For a long time, Louis Oosthuizen has looked as though he’s got all the skills required to clinch another major, and 11 years on from his victory in this tournament, this could be the perfect opportunity for the South African. His form in majors this season has been outstanding, finishing 26th at the Masters, second at the PGA Championship, and second at the US Open. Moreover, he’s recorded five top-five finishes in majors since 2017. A man for the big occasion, Louis ranks highly in most of the strokes gained areas that should be important this week, so really, it’s a question of why shouldn’t he make the team? instead of why should he? If you want a serious challenger going in as top pick, then Oosthuizen does the job.|
|Odds To Win +5000|
|Draft Kings $8,400|
|Like Xander, big Tony is a player who often saves his best for the biggest occasions. He’s yet to win a major, but the man from Ohio has posted an impressive nine (YES NINE!) top tens in majors since 2018. He’s also steadily improved when it comes to links golf in the UK, making the cut in each of his four Open appearances, building in a ninth-place finish in 2018 when finishing third in 2019. A strong player tee-to-green, among the strongest on tour, Finau, who certainly won’t be overawed by the stern test, has the game around the greens to do well in Sandwich this week, so get him on the team for what could turn out to be a slightly generous $8,400.|
|Odds To Win +6600|
|Draft Kings $8,300|
|The current world number 15 doesn’t exactly come into this tournament in flying form having missed the cut in each of his last two events, while he hasn’t won since lifting the PLAYERS Championship trophy back in 2018, though there are lots to suggest he could be suited to the blustery Royal St. Georges. Without hitting the heights, Simpson has ticked along reasonably well at the Open Championship in recent times, making the cut in each of the last five seasons, his best effort being a 12th place finish back in 2018.|
There was plenty to like about his only previous effort at this venue, finishing 16th back in 2011, while he ticks lots of the necessary strokes gained boxes, as we can see above. Scrambling and play around the greens is likely to be key this week and there are few better on the PGA Tour than Simpson in those areas. He’s also the top dog when it comes to sand saves, which certainly bodes well.
|Odds To Win +6600|
|Draft Kings $7,800|
|A price tag of $7,800 seems cheap for any player that ranks inside the world’s top 30, which is exactly where Cameron Smith sits right now. On that basis alone, the Aussie probably deserves more respect, and although he may not jump off the page as the most obvious candidate to tear it up on the east Kent coast, he’s not exactly averse to turning a big performance in a major, finishing top ten in two of the last four. He also has some solid Open Championship form in the book, finishing 20th when the tournament was last played, while his high rank for strokes gained: putting is eye-catching. As lower-priced picks go, Smith is far from a poor option.|
|Odds to Win +8000|
|Draft Kings $7,300|
|It was long ago that Rickie Fowler going in as a sleeper would’ve seemed laughable, but such is the crazy world of golf. It’s well documented that Fowler has had his struggles in recent times, but there have been signs of life at times this season, that’s for sure. Moreover, Rickie is a player that loves this tournament, as much as he loves testing his game in tough, windy conditions. His eighth-place finish in harsh links-style conditions at the PGA Championship this season bodes well, as do his three top-five-finishes at this tournament since 2011, where he finished fifth on this course.|