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6 Picks to Win The Open Championship

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We’ve made it to Open Championship week with two of golf’s purported Big Three intact and thriving ahead of a major championship at the Home of Golf.

We’re all on notice, and DraftKings is once again throwing down for a major, with a $3 million—YES, $3 MILLION—prize pool for this week’s contest. There’s a $1 MILLION GRAND PRIZE WINNER and any top-10 finisher is pocketing at least $10,000.

The entry fee is $20 for a contest where, again, you could WIN $1 MILLION if you pick your players right.

Sign up here!

Hopefully I can be of partial service in that department. Here’s my analysis for the week.

The Course

The Swilcan Bridge is one of the most famous attractions in golf.

The Old Course at St. Andrews, a 7,305-yard par-72 layout, is the most hallowed links in the world. While the Old Course admittedly doesn’t offer the breathtaking views of a Pebble Beach, the subtleties of the layout, along with the architectural influences it has spawned prove the course’s glory. (That and it being the home of golf and all.)

But yeah, yeah…we could wax poetic all day about the Old Course if we wanted. Let’s get to the point: Who does this layout favor?

We had an interesting situation this week in that there is some recent past data at the Old Course with four Opens contested here from 1990-2010 and the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship coming here for two of four rounds from 2012-14.

It’s tough, though, to take any credence in either. The Dunhill’s six rounds is way too small a sample size and the fact that the Opens are so spread out is a problem with way too much changing in the game over that time period.

You can look into those samples if you want, but I feel those samples are too flawed to gain that much from. (Especially with course changes for this Open.)

I’ll take my chances on the assumptions.

One of these assumptions would be that this course is a bomber’s paradise, and I believe it will be even more so than usual this week. Woods mentioned on Saturday his shock about how soft the St. Andrews layout is right now—and softer conditions favor long-hitters. There have been plenty of comments since noting that Woods maybe overstated there, but regardless, this course is softer and wetter than in previous Opens and that should only aid long hitters more.

It’s also been noted that this course really requires precision iron play, so definitely lean toward strong iron players as well. St. Andrews is seen as a wide-open layout, but the astute know that players can’t just flail their drivers wherever here. Finding the bunkers off the tee is deadly, and if competitors can thread it up the riskier right side of the fairway on most holes, they will have a far easier approach than from the more forgiving left side of the fairway.

Road_hole_bunker

The Road Hole Bunker on No. 17 at St. Andrews (Old Course).

Short game is sometimes given great importance at St. Andrews, and putting as well. I see the short game value, but I don’t agree that the flatstick will be a huge factor at St. Andrews.

Overall, the ideal St. Andrews player, to me, appears to be a long-hitter with at least some accuracy off the tee and a really good iron game. A nice touch around the greens is helpful, too.

Also, I know Scotland weather is notoriously fickle, but wind (and tough conditions) will be a significant factor throughout the week. Be weary then of players who’ve proven they don’t perform well in wind or in cold, rainy conditions.

Six-Man Roster (Last Week: 523.5 points, 10,339th of 103,910, WON $5!) 

  • Adam Scott, $10,700 
  • Paul Casey, $9,200
  • Hideki Matsuyama, $8,500
  • Francesco Molinari, $7,500
  • Marc Leishman, $7,000
  • Kiradech Aphibarnrat, $6,600

Pay attention…

THE WEATHER MIGHT SCREW OVER HALF THE FIELD, JUST LIKE IN 2010!

Shane Ryan goes more in depth on it at Golf Digest, but I think you can guess without looking that it has to do with increasing winds. The Thursday morning-Friday afternoon groups are the ones potentially receiving the short end.

Due to the tee time issue, I am going to play it safe and place Adam Scott here. The Aussie’s struggle with his putter in 2015 is kind of legendary to this point, but he finally seemed to get it together with a T4 at the U.S. Open. His Open Championship history at the Old Course is only OK (two mediocre weekend finishes), but he’s really seemed to find his way at the Open with a 2-T3-T5 slate in his past three starts at the major.

Adam_Scott_2015

Despite his result, which I chalk up to his inability to perform in majors earlier in his career, this is a really good course for Scott. He’s a long, accurate driver with a deadly approach game. His short game is underrated. And while putting isn’t too predictive at the Old Course, easily the most important range here is 15-25 feet, by far Scott’s favorite distance in 2015. Couple that with his recent form and recent Open form, and he’s a really good bet this week.

Casey (a gorgeous last name FYI) really has been revitalized in 2015. The Englishman of course is in fine form and was the only player who challenged Oosthuizen on Sunday at St. Andrews back in 2010 before finishing T3. I don’t even need to go into course fit here, all of this makes Casey an obvious choice.

I’m honestly baffled that Matsuyama is at this price even in such a strong field. He’s unbelievably consistent (14 top-25s in 17 starts), which gives him a high floor (and his ceiling is high, too). His perfect mix of power and precision from tee-to-green (includes short game) makes him attractive at the Old Course. He also finished top 20 in the year’s first two majors. From all of this, I believe in Hideki so much that he’s the only one among my main roster who falls in the Friday afternoon group.

Marc_Leishman_2015

Molinari and Leishman both fall under the stellar approach play label. Leishman also holds some accuracy, but is definitely less precise and more powerful than Molinari. Whatever the case, both are fearsome ball-strikers, and especially thrive in tough, windy conditions, which we should see plenty of. Molinari is in great form, and I expect Leishman to regain his hot play from earlier this season soon.

If you only focus on American golf, you don’t know Aphibarnrat, and his form hasn’t been fantastic of late (four of six missed cuts). But he pretty much sits at the same odds as Oosthuizen did in 2010, so why not take a shot at him?

After all, Aphibarnrat is a renowned talent. He was an Asian Tour prodigy, who has been transitioning to the European circuit in recent years. And after some tough times in 2014, he’s finally gained the confidence to be a world-beater on the European Tour.

If you’re still not convinced, he’s been coined Asia’s John Daly– a guy who won at St. Andrews in 1995. He has the power to do well on the Old Course and, with his game now better adapted to difficult conditions, I think it’s about time this prodigious talent makes himself known on the big stage.

Random roster via two non-golf fans (Last Week: N/A)

These boys will keep fighting on despite a couple of tough weeks. After all, remember THERE’S $1 MILLION at stake in the DraftKings Open Championship contest.

As always, the order of their picks and reasoning for each:

Luke Donald: See here.

Jimmy Walker: They heard about the FedEx Cup points system. They’re not totally sure what it is, but saw that Walker is highly ranked there, and that must be a good thing.

Kevin Na: See here.

Jason Dufner: My friends admire the Duf’s willingness to play with his ex-wife’s alleged “mister” (made-up term for male mistress). Of course, they’re referring to this, and with Woods’ and Dufner’s practice round kind of dispelling the Tiger-Amanda rumors, my friends’ reasoning is obviously done in jest.

Branden Grace: His bio said that he did well at the U.S. Open, which makes him a good choice for the Open Championship. My friends are indeed correct.

Dustin Johnson: They just know he’s good, really that’s about it.

Alternate Six-Man Roster (Last Week: 270 points, 102,938th of 103,910)

  • Dustin Johnson, $11,400
  • Henrik Stenson, $10,200
  • Shane Lowry, $8,100
  • Keegan Bradley, $7,400
  • John Senden, $6,800
  • James Hahn, $6,000

I made this roster without regarding the tee time split (that way, I compiled one roster apiece each way).

Dustin Johnson

Johnson really isn’t worrying about his 72nd-hole gaffe at the U.S. Open and that’s entirely unsurprising if you’ve followed him at all. I fully expect DJ to bounce right back, and the Old Course should speak to his game. He placed T14 at the layout in 2010, and everything but his inaccuracy off the tee meshes so well with this course.

This is the third straight major Stenson is in one of my lineups, and considering his runner-up at the BMW International Open in his last start, a T3 at the 2010 Open and a game very similar to Scott’s (except less short game prowess), he’s a no-brainer selection.

Lowry loves tough conditions. Bradley also loves tough conditions. Both hit a stride in their play in recent months, and with Bradley’s controlled bombing off the tee, solid iron play and productive mid-range putting, the Old Course may be a massive fit for his game. And you can say the same for Lowry, based on his Dunhill results, which includes a sixth and a third in his last two starts at that event.

Senden appreciates links golf and he profiles quite well for St. Andrews. He should also perform well in these persistent winds. His form is up-and-down of late, but definitely watch him.

With Hahn, I didn’t have much money left and I felt he was my best option down here. He did play well at the Greenbrier (T6), but, yeah, this is a total flyer pick.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. joe

    Jul 15, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Tiger is going to win by 2 shots. I can feel it coming in the air tonightttttt! Oh lord!

  2. SJ

    Jul 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    By far my favorite part of these is the exclamation point after the very small amount of money that was won. $2!

    • Kevin Casey

      Jul 15, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      Haha. True, not a lot of money. Always nice to win cash, though, no matter how minimal.

      But yeah, a prize in the thousands, tens of thousands, etc. would make me truly excited.

  3. jim

    Jul 15, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    you say weather thursday morning and friday afternoon will be worse, but if i look at the forecast, it looks just the opposite. low wind and no rain thursday morning (whereas lots of wind and slight chance of rain in the afternoon), then friday almost a 100% chance of rain in the morning and none in the afternoon, with wind being slightly higher in the afternoon. why do you think thursday afternoon and friday morning groups have an advantage?

    • Kevin Casey

      Jul 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      To start off, I wrote this on Tuesday, so I was going off whatever the forecast said then. At that point, the Thursday Morning/Friday Afternoon group looked like they would be at a big disadvantage. And you don’t have to take my word for it, you’ll find that in the Shane Ryan post I hyperlinked to in the article.

      So when I wrote this, the forecast was looking to be tough for the Thursday Morning/Friday Afternoon crew.

      However, I also noted in the article that Scotland weather is extremely finicky, so the forecasts could change. I decided that I would shape my main roster around the idea that the forecast would stay put (or somewhat close). That way if it did stay put, I would have a big advantage because most people wouldn’t have accounted for that weather split. If it didn’t stay put, well, you can still pick an excellent roster even if you freeze out almost half of the field.

      So I was aware, too, that the forecast could change and my avoiding the Thursday Morning/Friday Afternoon would be fruitless.

      That being said, I really have no idea what current forecasts you are looking at. Either that, or you exaggerated the ones you saw. PGATour.com has been keeping the Thursday-Sunday forecast updated and here’s today’s version: http://www.pgatour.com/news/2015/07/15/rain–wind-in-forecast-at-st–andrews.html

      The current Met Office version (which breaks down hour-by-hour on Thursday), is here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/forecast/gfn0848v1#?fcTime=1437004800

      If you look at both of these, I come away with the impression that Thursday Morning/Friday Afternoon is still disadvantaged, although less so than before.

      On Thursday, the morning groups will indeed face wind, it looks like 10-15 mph throughout their rounds but no rain. The afternoon groups will face 15-20 mph winds and mostly cloudy conditions. The afternoon groups may get hit with rain at some points, but it will be light rain and extremely intermittent. So for the Thursday groups, the morning does have the slight advantage because they will be in slightly lower winds. The rain thing is a pretty moot point. It’s forecasted to rain only a few times in the afternoon, and it’s very light stuff, the effect there is minimal, if any. Overall, the Thursday morning group looks like they have a small advantage from conditions that day.

      As for Friday, the morning will face 15-20 mph winds. The Met Office shows that gusts could get up to 30 mph, but there really isn’t any emphasis on the morning gusts in the PGATour.com report, which to me says that any gusts in the morning are extremely rare. Therefore, it’ll mainly be 15-20 mph in the morning. In the afternoon, though, the winds will move up to 20-25 mph. That’s not a big jump, but the important thing is that there will be strong gusts of up to 35-40 mph, and they are being emphasized heavily, which means that they are predicting a lot of these gusts in the afternoon. Therefore, we’ll see the wind strengthen significantly in the afternoon vs. morning on Friday. As for other factors. It looks likely that the morning groups will have to face rain, but it’s not for certain. The afternoon groups have a smaller but still significant chance of facing rain. It looks like it’ll be on and off throughout the day, more off in the afternoon. Overall, the morning groups will probably have to contend with more rain, but not that much more. Finally, it appears it’ll rain heavily overnight on Thursday, which should mean extremely soft conditions on Friday morning. That’ll likely dry out significantly as the day goes on if it’s only on and off rain the rest of the day, as the Old Course drains really fast unless there’s just constant heavy rain. Morning groups always get softer conditions than the afternoon, but it seems like this will be significantly more so on Friday. And that’s a huge green light for low scores. Overall then, Friday conditions give a sizable advantage to the morning group. Yes, the morning groups may have to contend with more rain, but their winds will be significantly tamer and the gap between morning soft conditions and afternoon firm conditions will be larger than usual.

      Putting this all together, it looks like the morning group each day will be the advantaged group on the current forecasts. But while Thursday morning has a slight advantage, the Friday morning group advantage is definitely pretty sizable. I do think the Thursday Morning/Friday Afternoon disadvantage is smaller than before but that is still the group that will get the worst of the weather, according to the current forecasts.

      But always remember that these forecasts can change in Scotland even just hours beforehand, so nothing is set in stone yet.

  4. Kevin Casey

    Jul 15, 2015 at 7:00 am

    And when I say “ignoring the weather”, I of course mean ignoring the potential weather split. I’m not constructing any rosters on the idea that the conditions will be calm out there (because it’s incredibly unlikely they will be). Just to be clear.

  5. Brian

    Jul 14, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Poor Spieth. Not a single roster pick?

    • Kevin Casey

      Jul 15, 2015 at 6:55 am

      I only have so many players I can pick, so my not including the Golden Child does not mean I don’t like his chances this week. After all, he was on my main roster at the year’s previous major, and that turned out great.

      To go through my reasoning, my main roster is constructed on the idea that the Friday afternoon players will face a penalty because they receive the bad end of the weather draw. To be clear, I know it’s far from certain that this initial forecast will hold up. Scottish weather is a fickle beast after all. Still, I wanted to hedge my bets on my main roster. If I decided to account for that potential weather split and steer away from Friday afternoon players, while that meant leaving some good players off the table, there were still plenty of attractive options from the Friday morning group. You can easily still pick a winning roster this week almost entirely out of the Friday morning group even if it turns out they have a minimal or no weather advantage.

      On the flip side, if I took a gamble and decided that this weather split wouldn’t hold up…well I would be in a poor position if it did indeed come to fruition. Of course, the positive side is that ignoring the weather means I have more options to choose from, but the downside if I’m wrong is a little severe.

      Anyway, so that is why I struck a compromise. I would construct my main roster on the assumption of the weather split holding up, in order to protect myself, and I would take the risk of ignoring the weather on my back-up roster. That way, I have a proper guard up for my top group while rolling the dice a bit on my alternate group.

      With that in mind, it was going to be really tough for Jordo to make my main roster. I do think the guy will contend this week if he avoids a bad weather draw. But, as I said, in my main roster I am betting against the Friday afternoon group, which he is a part of. I mean, he’s certainly one of, if not the top candidate to overcome such a disadvantage. But it would indeed be a big disadvantage if it comes to fruition, and spending $12,000 on a guy with the assumption that he’ll be penalized 2- or 3-strokes because of weather is way too risky for me. The only guy I pulled the trigger on with this potential 2- or 3-stroke hole was Matsuyama. I chose him because I think he’s also one of the most likely guys to brush off such a disadvantage, and I can justify that as a slight risk considering his much more manageable $8,500. For Matsuyama, as I noted in the article, that’s a surprisingly low price. After all, they don’t factor in weather draws when assigning these values.

      So that’s covers my main roster. The guy only had a real chance to get in my alternate roster then, as I decided to totally ignore a weather split there. The reason he’s not in that roster? Again, it’s not because I don’t believe in his chances. I really like Dustin’s chances this week, and he should be very close to victory or win outright this week if the weather isn’t unfavorable to him. I felt I couldn’t pass him up on my roster. With that being the case, I had a tough decision to make, go with the $12,000 guy or the $11,400 player (Dustin), as my lead. I knew I couldn’t choose both because that would leave me really cash strapped. I’m fine picking in the James Hahn range for one of my roster spots this week, but I would’ve had to have gone down there twice or maybe even three times if I selected a $12,000 and a $11,400 player. That wasn’t worth it to me. So I had to choose between the two, and I decided on Dustin. I trust DJ to do well just as much this week (the course really suits him well) and his price tag is $600 cheaper, so it made sense.

      Overall, if you’re still reading, I definitely didn’t gloss over a two-time major champion and a four-time winner in 2015. I do think he is a good person to pick this week if you don’t trust the weather split to hold up. In fact, he would be leading my alternate roster if I didn’t have so much faith in DJ. We’ll see.

      • ooffa

        Jul 15, 2015 at 11:10 am

        A bit wordy Kev. Your reply to a comment is longer than the actual article. ZZZZZzzzzzz

        • Kevin Casey

          Jul 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

          I mean, that’s a fair point. I can certainly write long at times.

          I guess I would rather express my point too clearly and too thoroughly than not enough, though. I especially would want to do so for someone like Brian, who appears to be looking for a rational explanation rather than just coming here to tell me I stink (we all know the Internet has plenty of these people).

          Maybe it is long a lot, but I want to fully explain myself. It doesn’t mean I don’t work on tightening things up, but I’m only going for brevity if I can still get my point across.

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