Fantasy Golf Picks: 2016 British Open Sleepers, Starts & Preview
145th British Open
Defending Champ: Zach Johnson
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British Open Field
156 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make The Cut
South Ayrshire, Scotland becomes the epicenter of the golfing world for the 145th British Open. Apparently, there’s power in such vast history; not even Brexit can prevent Spaniards from earning paychecks in the UK. I’ll take credit for being the first person to ever place an inclusive tag on anything related to golf. Also, I know it’s actually called “The Open Championship.” I’ve been assured “British Open” has better search value, however.
Daniel Berger (shoulder) and Brooks Koepka (Ankle) are the only absentees from the Top 50 in the world rankings. Jaco Van Zyl also pulled out of The Open. No injury for the South African, he just wants stay fresh for the Olympics. Which ranks just behind Phil Mickelson’s lack of punishment from the PGA despite insider trading and associations with known gamblers on the absurdity scale. Listen Jaco, just come clean and admit you have no chance of hoisting the Claret Jug and want to feel like a big man by winning a glorified Web.com event that just happens to give away a gold medal. Luke Donald is taking Van Zyl’s spot in the field. Good, we all like the Brit better anyway. Jamie Lovemark and Colt Knost have been added replacing Koepka and Bergertime.
Since this is an Open, the field goes deep in a bunch of different directions. There are a slew of unknown qualifiers (Hello, Scott Fernandez), regional tour members from the worldwide The Open Qualifying Series, 16 former British Open winners making cameos at Royal Troon (Mark Calcavecchia and Sandy Lyle’s are only expected to be walk-on roles), and random amateurs and money leaders from golf circuits from around the globe.
British Open Key Stats
British Open Course
Royal Troon | 7,190 Yards | Par 71
Unlike the other tournaments which utilize a series of different host courses every year, the British Open rotation venues share common traits. Some layouts may feature more pot bunkers, while others allocate more real estate for MORE BURNS, but, those, along with crisp fairways, mounds of fescue, terrible clubhouse food, and unpredictable weather are going to be noticeable regardless of the year. Conversely, the US Open and PGA Championship courses may have no relation to each other year-to-year. Since many Fantasy golfers use course history as an aspect of their research, it’s not insane to take a gander at British Open tournament history to get a sense of the players that thrive on these links style courses.
Many would think European players have the advantage on their home continent, but the past six winners at Royal Troon have bled Red, White and Blue. And, the last three winners in South Ayrshire have all been previous champions of the Honda Classic - Todd Hamilton, Justin Leonard and Calcavecchia. Hamilton and Leonard earned their novelty checks at Mirasol while Calc claimed his win at Herron Bay. I wouldn’t overlook the performance from players in the field that have had success at PGA National either. Those who have navigated the Bear Trap in past have also gotten a workout raising the Clarlet Jug toward the Gods. Two-time Open winners Paddy Harrington and Ernie Els along with 2014 Open champ Rory McIlroy have all earned giant paydays in Palm Beach Gardens. The commonalties lie in the weather and strategy off the tee, and how one affects the other. The current conditions and dampness of the grounds influence tee shots. Those who can properly adjust to each seem to have an advantage at both tournaments. Could this all be confirmation bias? Potentially. However looking at results from these similar situations reveals a lot of crossover success between both events.
Keeping the ball out of the shit is essential. Conditions pending, the winning score will fall around -10, give or take a couple strokes either way, and birdies are far tougher to be had when approach shots are buried in weeds high enough to tickle your hole. If the wind is up, players need to prioritize club selection off the tee to guarantee safe passage on the short grass. If winds are down and the Mr. Sun peeks his head around the clouds, finding paths between the hazards to maximize the roll of a charred fairways is paramount. If there’s no wind and it’s wet, leveraging a high ball flight to hit specific spots setting up easy second shots will be key. If it’s windy and wet, everyone’s fucked. Then the field is at the mercy of lucking into favorable draw, or else, they’re all carding 80s.
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British Open Picks
Adam Scott - There remains lingering redemption for the Aussie at The Open. Up four strokes with four holes to play in 2012, Scott rode the bogey train into the clubhouse, handing the Claret Jug to Ernie Els. And yes, the world’s No. 8 player has earned the sport’s highest sartorial honor since, but his best Major results have always come in the UK. In his past five Opens, Scott hasn’t missed a cut, fired eight rounds in the 60s (the most of any player), and boasts an average finish of ninth place. Impressive. Tack on his remarkable 2016 - Two wins (Honda Classic/ WGC-Doral), no missed cuts, and four T20s in his last five starts - and you have a favorite few are talking about.
Jason Day - Of the Big Four (Day, Spieth, Rory, Dustin), Day’s skills suit Royal Troon the best. Despite a monstrous apex height (11th), Day’s proclivity to turn to his 2-Iron off the tee has made him better equipped to handle wind than any other player on sweet, fragile Mother Gaia. This news shouldn’t be shocking. Day is the best player on the planet in most categories. There’s a reason he’s claimed seven victories over the last year. Whether it’s putting, approach, driving, vertigo, or chipping, Day is near the top of any list.
Rory McIlroy - It's easy to forget Rory was forced out of last year’s Open with a shattered ankle. A year later, he’s the lone member of the Big Four without a PGA win in 2016. It’s not like he’s some bum, though. Rory dominated the desert in Dubai and, in a very Tigeresque move, won his own event in Ireland in late May. People will downgrade him because of the lack of visible US success, but that’s just lazy. Classic America. The 2014 champ’s prowess with the big stick the last 12 weeks - Off the Tee (1st), Tee-to-Green (2nd) - assures him every advantage. As it is most weeks, if Rory decides to putt, he’ll be nary unbeatable.
Hideki Matsuyama - Hideki has Two T20s with no missed cuts in three Open appearances. No, his recent form can’t even be considered mediocre (42nd/MC/MC), but his mastery off the tee and ability to manage in the wind should propel him up the leaderboard.
Russell Knox - The Scot is having an underrated season. Currently fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, Knox took down the WGC-Champions last November, and has racked up 11 T30s in 19 events since. Most notably with T10s at the Scottish Open, Irish Open and The Heritage, all courses somewhat similar to Royal Troon. Ranked 16th in Driving Accuracy and 9th in Greens in Regulation, Knox will generate enough birdie tries to contend.
Francesco Molinari - The Italian comes in HOT FIYAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! Molinari followed up a T8 at the Quicken Loans with a silver medal in France. He’s sneakily third in SG: Tee-To-Green the past 12 weeks - only behind Day and Dustin Johnson - too. Always known for his accuracy, Molinari has the experience and temperament to navigate through rough conditions on links courses.
Matt Kuchar - My pick to win. Kuchar lines up great in recent form (five T10s in last six starts), key stats (5th in SG: T2G and 7th Driving Accuracy the last 12 weeks, 8th in Wind performance since the beginning of 2015 and 9th in Bentgrass/Poa Annua putting performance among players in the field) with some Honda Classic success (2002 champ) to boot. Plus, his American passport fits the narrative. There only a few attainable Majors remaining for the 38-year-old to claim, Royal Troon may be his best shot.
Charl Schwartzel - Sneaky, Sneaky Charl. A three-time winner in 2016, the South African enters fresh off two straight T10s and has missed just one cut in the calendar year. He scores on Par 3s (43rd) and Par 4s (17th) while boasting the ninth best overall scoring average. Fuse that with his SG: Approach (4th), SG: T2G (9th), GIR rate (21st), and second best performance from the Key Par 4 range, and you have all the ingredients for an Open champion.
The Pat Mayo Hour covers the entire scope of the Fantasy sports landscape from Football to Reality TV, daily and yearly leagues and everything in between. You can watch the Pat Mayo Hour every weekday at 3:00pm EST, 8:00pm EST and Midnight on the FNTSY Sports Network Television channel or on your Apple TV, Xbox, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at PatMayoHour@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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