This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $1.89M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Portrush, Northern Ireland
Course: Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunluce Links)
2018 champion: Francesco Molinari
There are always myriad storylines surrounding the Open Championship, but unquestionably the biggest one this year is the course. For only the second time since the world's oldest golf tournament began in 1860, it will not be contested in either England or Scotland. Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland played host to the Open in 1951, and the event now returns for a second time. The course has effectively become the 10th course in the rota, with two more Opens set to be contested there by 2040. Royal Portrush – very familiar to Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Brooks Koepka's caddie (that's true, and don't minimize it) – dates to 1888. The Dunluce Links, one of two courses at Portrush, are named after the nearby ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle. The last European Tour event played there was the 2012 Irish Open, with a field far from elite. Other than that, there is scant course history to consider.
Portrush is situated by the North Atlantic and, as they like to say, you can experience all four seasons there in one day. Yes, there's the potential for weather we see at no other major, and the primary defense is, of course, the wind. There are only 64 bunkers on the entire course, a very un-Open-like characteristic. In fact, that's the fewest number of bunkers in the rota – but don't be fooled; don't mistake the small number for easy. What Royal Portrush has plenty of are undulations throughout the fairways and on the greens, which also feature false fronts and run-offs. That's why this week we're putting a big emphasis on scrambling – more so than usual in an Open – as well as putting. We'll delve deeper into that in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
Every hole at Royal Portrush has a name and they run the gamut from the very British-sounding (Curran Point, Tavern and Dhu Varren) to the ominous-sounding (White Rocks, Calamity Corner and, drum roll, please ... Purgatory). The 194-yard No. 6 is named after course re-designer Henry Colt. Another par-3 could go a long way toward deciding the 148th Champion Golfer of the Year. It's the aforementioned Calamity Corner, the 16th, which checks in at a whopping 236 yards. Neither of those holes has even one bunker, but don't believe that makes them any easier. There are three par-5s, none after the 12th and none reaching 600 yards. When deciding to add Portrush as an Open course, they deemed that 17 and 18 were not worthy, certainly not befitting a closing stretch in a major. So they added two holes from the adjacent Valley course that will play as Nos. 7 and 8 this week.
Now, on to the field. Ninety of the top 100 in the world rankings are entered, including the top 53. Like we mentioned, Portrush is not a regular stop on the European Tour, so it's not like the Europeans will have a big edge, as they did last year at Carnoustie. But a few golfers – and one caddie – are very familiar with Portrush. McDowell grew up there, still lives there and has played the track countless times. Fellow Northern Irelander McIlroy has not played it nearly as often, but he does hold the course record of 61, set when he was but 16 years old. McIlroy also tied for 10th at the 2012 Irish Open and McDowell tied for 16th. Rafa Cabrera Bello tied for second behind Jamie Donaldson, who is not in the field. Donaldson won by four at 18-under, though that total is not a great indicator this week. The 2014 British Amateur was also held there, and it was won by South African Zander Lambert, who is in the field as a professional. McIlroy is the betting favorite, with Koepka right behind him. The world No. 1 arrives having never played Portrush, but his caddie, Ricky Elliott, is from Portrush and knows the course like the back of his hand. Both McIlroy, the 2014 champion, and Koepka are going for their fifth career majors. If Koepka wins, he will make it 12 different champions in 12 years since Padraig Harrington won back-to-back in 2007-08.
Weather-wise, rain is in forecast for Tuesday. And Wednesday. And then Thursday through Sunday. Not a lot – they're calling it light rain or showers. But that's the type of week it will be. Highs will be in the 60s all week, and it appears the wind will be strong. As of now, there's no indication that the early/late or late/early tee times have an advantage.
Key Stats to Winning at Royal Portrush
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Ball striking/driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
2018 - Francesco Molinari (Carnoustie)
2017 - Jordan Spieth (Royal Birkdale)
2016 - Henrik Stenson (Royal Troon)
2015 - Zach Johnson (St. Andrews)
2014 - Rory McIlroy (Royal Liverpool)
2013 - Phil Mickelson (Muirfield)
2012 - Ernie Els (Royal Lytham & St. Annes)
2011 - Darren Clarke (Royal St. George's)
2010 - Louis Oosthuizen (St. Andrews)
2009 - Stewart Cink (Turnberry)
We don't mean to minimize a good chunk of the Royal Portrush course, but we believe the champion will be someone who scrambles and putts among the best. There are many challenges before getting on the green. But with the wind forecast to be blowing, and all the false fronts and run-offs around the greens, golfers will be turning to their wedges when they would have hoped to have been putting. Beginning with Phil Mickelson in 2013, the last six winners have ranked first, fourth, second, seventh, fourth and fifth in scrambling. At the 2012 Irish Open, winner Jamie Donaldson ranked only 64th in greens in regulation but was fifth in scrambling and first in putting average. One of the runners-up, Anthony Wall, was second in scrambling and fourth in putting average. Rafa Cabrera Bello, who also tied for second, chose another route: He was ranked in the 20s in both scrambling and putting but was fifth in greens in regulation. Even though there is not significant course knowledge among most of the Europeans, simply playing links golf in weather they are more accustomed to gives them some advantages over the Americans and other international golfers. As is usually the case with majors, this tournament will be decided by those who make the fewest mistakes. For what it's worth, eight of the last 11 Open winners have been 35 or older, and five of the past eight have been 39 or older. This is unlike any other tournament in the world. Experience matters.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $10,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 16-1)
We're going to skip the top three golfers on the DraftKings board, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. We may come to regret that, but we think the pressure on McIlroy will be enormous, and scrambling/putting is the weakest part of his game. Koepka and Johnson are better suited for the American major tracks, and Johnson arrives in a bit of a rut, especially with his putter. So we turn to the No. 4 guy on the DK board, Rahm. The Spaniard does not have a great track record at the Open, but we believe it's simply a matter of getting the hang of things. He certainly has caught on in the other majors. He tied for fourth in last year's PGA, for ninth at this year's Masters and for third at last month's U.S. Open. Rahm followed up the Open with a runner-up at the Andalucia Masters before winning the Irish Open. He is the fourth betting choice behind McIlroy, Koepka and Johnson.
Justin Rose - $9,900 (20-1)
Turning to Rose here means we're are also bypassing Tiger Woods. Rose definitely arrives under the radar, as he has done often. We've forgotten about him at times and it bit us. Now, we want to remember the golfer who was co-runner-up at last year's Open and tied for third at last month's U.S. Open. Rose is ranked 18th on the PGA Tour in scrambling and fourth in strokes gained: putting.
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,700 (25-1)
Fleetwood may have the best links game in the world and is an excellent tee-to-green player. He's also ranked ninth on the PGA Tour in scrambling. After missing his first three Open cuts, he tied for 27th in 2017 and for 12th last year. And, not that this should even matter for a golfer we think will be in the mix come Sunday, Fleetwood has not missed a cut anywhere in the world in more than a year.
Xander Schauffele - $9,500 (20-1)
Sometimes the only numbers that matter are those on the leaderboard. Schauffele has top-6s in half of his 10 career majors. In two Opens, he tied for 20th in 2017 and was co-runner-up last year, when he had a real shot to win. In this year's majors, Schauffele tied for second at the Masters, for 16th at the PGA and for third at the U.S. Open.
Tier 2 Values
Patrick Cantlay - $9,100 (25-1)
Here, we're skipping Francesco Molinari and Justin Thomas even though there is merit for selecting both. Instead, we turn to the leading scrambler on the PGA Tour in Cantlay. He has played in only one Open Championship, tying for 12th last year. He's had a great season all around in 2019, though, highlighted by his win at the Memorial last month. He has also excelled at the majors, tying for ninth at the Masters, for third at the PGA and for 21st at the U.S. Open.
Adam Scott - $8,800 (30-1)
Last year at this time, Scott was ranked in the 70s in the OWGR. Now, amid a fantastic bounceback season at age 38, he's all the way up to 16th. Scott used to struggle at the Open, but not any longer. Beginning with his excruciating runner-up to Ernie Els at Royal Lytham in 2012, he ran off four consecutive top-10s and has two more top-25s in that seven-year stretch. He finished top-25 the past two years when his game was going in the wrong direction. At this year's majors, Scott has two top-10s and a top-20. He is ranked fourth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: around the green and 23rd in SG: putting.
Matt Kuchar - $8,700 (30-1)
At 41, Kuchar is enjoying his best season in years, maybe his best ever. He's won twice and finished second twice. In the majors, he has three top-16s. He's even excelled at the last two Open Championships, tying for ninth last year and famously finishing runner-up to Jordan Spieth in 2017 at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar is ranked eighth on the PGA Tour in scrambling.
Henrik Stenson - $8,400 (25-1)
Stenson has not only won the Open, in 2016 at Royal Troon, but he has a runner-up and two thirds through the years. He had a terrible start to 2019 but still made the cut in all three majors, including a top-10 at the U.S. Open. When his game is on, Stenson is a serious threat, even at 43. He is ranked 14th on the European Tour in scrambling.
Tier 3 Values
Matt Wallace - $8,100 (50-1)
It's hard to believe that someone ranked 23rd in the world has played in only one Open – he missed the cut last year– but that speaks to Wallace's meteoric rise. He tied for 19th at last year's PGA, then for third at this year's PGA and 12th at the U.S. Open. On the European Tour in 2019, he's had two runners-up and a tie for third, and was T14 last week at the Scottish Open. Wallace is ranked top-30 in scrambling and top-10 in putting on the European Tour. His corresponding numbers are worse on the PGA Tour, but this is Royal Portrush, not Augusta.
Louis Oosthuizen - $8,000 (30-1)
There are definitely reasons to overlook Oosthuizen. But we're probably thinking like the oddsmakers who gave him a pretty small number – when he is on his game, he can be elite at the Open (and anywhere). Oosthuizen won at St. Andrews in 2010 and was runner-up in 2015. He made only one cut there in the past three years, but is now having his best season in some time. Oosthuizen tied for seventh last month at the U.S. Open.
Webb Simpson - $7,600 (100-1)
Here's one where we'll disagree with the oddsmakers, and also the DraftKings pricing committee. Simpson had his best ever showing that the Open last year with a tie for 12th. He possesses an elite short game, ranking second on the PGA Tour in scrambling and is 22nd in strokes gained: putting. Simpson has six top-25s in the past seven majors overall, including a tie for fifth at this year's Masters and a tie for 16th last month at the U.S. Open.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $7,500 (80-1)
We admit, we're a bit intrigued by Cabrera Bello's runner-up at the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush. But the Spaniard also is riding three straight top-10s in European Tour events coming in, and he is ranked seventh on the Tour in scrambling. Cabrera Bello has made the cut in all seven majors spanning 2018-19. His best Open finish was a tie for fourth in 2017.
Bernd Wiesberger - $7,100 (80-1)
This is one of the disadvantages – or advantages, depending on your viewpoint – of early pricing for majors. Wiesberger just won the Scottish Open last week, coming on the heels of a runner-up at the Irish Open and another win in Denmark back in May. His price seems a little low even discounting his finish in Scotland. Just two months ago, the 33-year-old Austrian had fallen close to 400th in the world after an injury-shortened 2018. With this two-month surge, he's now ranked 40th. This will be Wiesberger's 21st career major. He's been in five Open Championships, missing two cuts with nothing better than a T64. But this is a new Wiesberger, one who is bound to be a popular DFS pick.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera - $7,000 (300-1)
The 34-year-old Frenchman has been around forever, but just his third major ever was the PGA Championship back in May, and he tied for 16th. That was part of a fantastic current surge that has taken him to a career-best 90th in the world rankings. Lorenzo-Vera had top-20s in his past four starts through the Irish Open, with three of m doubling as top-10s, including a runner-up at Andalucia Masters last month. He then tied for 28th last week in Scotland, giving him 10 straight made cuts.
Jorge Campillo - $6,900 (300-1)
The 33-year-old Spaniard has played in three majors and missed the cut in all of them, including last year's Open. But Campillo is up to No. 62 in the world, just off his career high, thanks to a win and five other top-10s in his past 11 starts. One of those top-10s was a tie for seventh two weeks ago at the Irish Open. Campillo is ranked fifth in strokes gained: putting on the European Tour.
Romain Langasque - $6,600 (300-1)
The 24-year-old Frenchman is on quite a roller coaster, one befitting a young golfer. In his past seven tournaments, Langasque has three top-5s and four missed cuts, including last week's tie for third in Scotland. This will be only his third major and first as a pro. He tied for 65th at the 2015 Open and for 39th at the 2016 Masters. Langasque is ranked 10th on the European Tour in scrambling and 21st in strokes gained: putting. He's on the verge of cracking the top-100 in the OWGR for the first time, currently sitting 104th.