This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE BRITISH OPEN
Winner's Share: $1,89M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Carnoustie, Scotland
Course: Carnoustie Golf Links
2017 champion: Jordan Spieth
For the first time since the proliferation of Fantasy Golf, the Claret Jug will be contested at Carnoustie, considered one of the toughest courses in the world and the absolute hardest links. Despite being completed by Old Tom Morris in 1867, it didn't join the Open rota until 1931, shortly after a course makeover. Thus this is only the eighth time in 147 Opens that the Champion Golfer of the Year will be decided there. Situated on the east coast of Scotland just off the North Sea, Carnoustie was home to the greatest collapse in major championship history. In 1999, star-crossed Jean van de Velde coughed up a three-stroke lead on the 18th hole and eventually lost to Paul Lawrie in a playoff. In 2007, the last time Carnoustie played host to the Open, Sergio Garcia famously blew a 54-hole lead and lipped-out an 8-footer for par on 18, then fell to Padraig Harrington in a playoff. They had tied at 7-under, which illustrates how hard the course is, but get this: In 1999, the winning score was 6-over. The other five Open winners at Carnoustie are all seminal names in golf history: Tom Watson (1975), Gary Player ('68), Ben Hogan ('53), Henry Cotton ('37) and Tommy Armour ('31).
What makes Carnoustie so hard? Pull up a chair. It is the longest course in Open history. It is completely exposed to the wind coming off the North Sea. The fairways are much narrower than what we've come to expect at a links course. There's deep rough and two-foot-high fescue if you miss those fairways. There are burns (creeks) affecting five holes. There are diabolical pot bunkers at every turn, more than 100 in all. There are swales and collection areas around many of the greens, turning good shots into bad. Half the greens are at least 40 yards long (yards, not feet). Nos. 16-18 at Carnoustie might be the most dastardly closing stretch in all of golf – there's a 248-yard par-3 followed by par-4s of 460 and 499. The golfers will cross the famed Barry Burn no fewer than five times on the final two holes (and more if things don't go well). As van de Velde and Garcia and even Harrington can attest, No. 18 is historically the hardest hole on the track; there were only 17 birdies there in 2007. Harrington actually doubled 18 that Sunday and was fortunate to catch perhaps the biggest break of his career when Garcia missed moments later. Lastly, five of the six hardest holes are on the back nine. How does all that sound? We'll take that course info and turn it into key stats and a Champion's Profile below.
European Tour regulars play Carnoustie every year, and thus should have somewhat of an advantage. It is part of the three-course rotation for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and everyone plays Carnoustie one time over the first three days. Tommy Fleetwood set the course record with a 9-under 63 last year (it played to a par-72), but rest assured it has been set up with significantly more difficulty this week. One change is that there are only two par-5s instead of three, dropping it to a par-71. On top of that, Scotland has gotten little rain of late and the fairways are so fast and so firm that the players practicing this week have reported 100-yard rolls. That is, if the ball stays in the fairway.
So there are many challenges ahead for the golfers. For us? It's all just fun. One of the best things about the Open is that no matter which time zone you live in, you can jump out of bed first thing in the morning and start watching. Heck, night owls or West Coasters can even watch before going to bed.
Now, on to the 156-man field. All the top golfers are there, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson the favorite at 12-1, ahead of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler at 16-1. Next comes Jordan Spieth as part of a five-man group at 20-1, and it's interesting to note that Spieth's last win anywhere in the world came a year ago at Royal Birkdale. For what it's worth, 31 golfers who played in 2007 will be back, and there are even close to 20 from 1999, most of them the long-ago champions but also Tiger Woods (T7 in '99, T12 in '07) and Phil Mickelson (T74 in '99, MC in '07). Will Tiger and Phil be in the value picks?
Weather-wise, right now there's rain coming on Friday. And that could be a big deal for gamers. Lineups can easily be wrecked if your guys get the worst half of the draw. We don't have the luxury of waiting till late Wednesday night to decide, but you do. The rest of the tournament right now looks dry. The wind could be blowing upward of 20 mph or more throughout the tournament. Temperatures should be in the 50s to low 60s all week.
Key Stats to Winning at Carnoustie
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Ball striking/driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Bogey avoidance
2017 - Jordan Spieth
2016 - Henrik Stenson
2015 - Zach Johnson
2014 - Rory McIlroy
2013 - Phil Mickelson
2012 - Ernie Els
2011 - Darren Clarke
2010 - Louis Oosthuizen
2009 - Stewart Cink
2008 - Padraig Harrington
Tiger Woods told reporters that the Carnoustie fairways are running faster than the greens. And when that happens, the narrow fairways will seem even narrower. If the ball isn't going straight, it will invariably carry into the rough. So driving accuracy is paramount this week, and golfers leaving driver in the bag most of the time won't make that task much easier. Don't focus too much on the longest hitters. With the fairways so scorched, just about everyone will get plenty of distance. All of that adds up to finding superior ball strikers, guys who can control their long irons and hybrids. Low ball flight will be a plus with expected windy conditions (though just last Sunday at the Scottish Open, there was barely a breeze). With the run-offs around the greens, scrambling acumen will be severely tested. The first page of the leaderboard in both 1999 and 2007 was filled with top scramblers for the week. This tournament will be decided by those who make the fewest mistakes. Avoiding bogey (or worse) will be a lot more important than making birdie. Likewise, avoiding the 100-plus bunkers will be key. For what it's worth, seven of the last 10 Open winners have been 35 or older, and five of the past seven 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
Dustin Johnson - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
After being stuck on no majors for a long time, Johnson has now been stuck on one for more than two years (2016 U.S. Open). But he's playing well of late, and he has a sneaky good track record at the British. Johnson was a co-runner-up to Darren Clarke in 2011, with two more top-10s and two more top-15s. He is ranked 10th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee, but he will need to improve on his driving accuracy (147th) to contend. Johnson is also third in bogey avoidance and eighth in scrambling.
Rory McIlroy - $10,100 (16-1)
McIlroy certainly is not at the top of his game, especially on the greens, but he does thrive in the Open. Since winning in 2014, the Northern Irishman has top-fives the past two years, plus another back in 2010. On the other hand, his tie for 28th at the Irish Open two weeks ago did little to inspire. McIlroy's numbers off the tee are remarkably similar to Johnson's – 11th in strokes gained: off the tee, 144th in accuracy. Surely, both of them will keep driver in the bag almost all week. Importantly, McIlroy is ranked eighth in scrambling.
Rickie Fowler - $9,700 (16-1)
Fowler has a couple of top-5s at the Open, including runner-up at Royal Liverpool in 2014. We've arrived at every major in the past five years saying Fowler has a chance to win, but of course it hasn't happened yet. It will, and probably sooner than later. Fowler is coming off a tie for sixth last week at the Scottish Open. He is ranked fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, T5 scrambling and 25th in greens in regulation.
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,400 (20-1)
Fleetwood played virtually in his backyard last year – he grew up around the corner from Royal Birkdale – and promptly fell flat on his face with an opening 6-over 76. He recovered to not only make the cut but tie for 27th, thought his chances of winning at home were dashed. Fleetwood is among the best in the world tee to green and, as long as he handles the pressure and expectations, which should not be as high as last year, he should be in the mix come Sunday. Fleetwood is sneaky long off the tee – 37th on the PGA Tour in driving distance – and also accurate (27th). Further, he has great touch, at least on PGA Tour tracks, with a ranking of 18th in strokes gained: around the green. Finally, Fleetwood owns the Carnoustie course record, a 9-under-63 last year at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Tier 2 Values
Brooks Koepka - $9,200 (20-1)
The two-time defending U.S. Open champion cut his chops on the Euro Tour, winning the 2014 Turkish Open and before that four Challenge Tour events, including one in Scotland (the Challenge Tour is akin to the Web.com Tour). Koepka has cashed top-10 in his past two trips to the Open, including a tie for sixth last year. He is ranked 14th in scrambling – what a bonus to have such touch to go along with prodigious distance – and is 15th in bogey avoidance. This price seems quite low, and the same could be said for this next guy:
Patrick Reed - $8,400 (30-1)
After never securing even so much as a top-10 in a major, Reed has now finished top-5 in his past three, including his win at the Masters in April. Prior to this run, his best finish at a major had been T12 at the 2016 British. Reed holds dual membership on the PGA and European Tours, plays a good deal around the world and actually leads in the Race to Dubai rankings. He is ranked third on the U.S. Tour in strokes gained: around the green and 17th in scrambling. Reed certainly will need to reign in his wildness off the tee, but he's smart enough to know that.
Henrik Stenson - $8,200 (25-1)
This is a tough one, because Stenson withdrew from the Scottish Open with an elbow injury. He said at the time he was "hoping to be fit for Carnoustie." In a perfect world, we'd have Stenson in out top-5 guys. He has a terrific history in this major. Of course, he won in 2016, and even acquitted himself nicely as defending champion with a T11 last year. Stenson also has a runner-up and two T3s through the years. This year, he's already finished fifth at the Masters and sixth at the U.S. Open. Simply, he's one of the best ball strikers in the world. Stenson is ranked first on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and bogey avoidance, and he's tied for fifth with Fowler in scrambling.
Marc Leishman - $8,000 (40-1)
Leishman has played the Open better than any non-winner the past four years, with three top-6 finishes, including a playoff loss to Zach Johnson at St. Andrews in 2015. The Aussie tied for sixth last year, then followed that up with a T13 at the PGA and a solo ninth at the Masters in April. Statistically, Leishman is 34th in strokes gained: around the green, 40th in approach and 58th in bogey avoidance.
Tier 3 Values
Tyrrell Hatton - $7,900 (40-1)
Hatton had endured a terrible months-long stretch – until recently. He tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, then for 16th at the French Open and for ninth last week in Scotland. He's fallen from No. 16 in the OWGR, but he's still No. 23. Hatton has missed the cut in three of his four British Opens, but he did tie for fifth two years ago, when Henrik Stenson outdueled Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon. If he can keep his temper under control, Hatton has the well-rounded game to contend this week: He's ranked 21st in driving accuracy on the Euro Tour, 22nd in distance, 15th in greens in regulations, first in putts per GIR and even 23rd in sand saves.
Zach Johnson - $7,200 (60-1)
Johnson's game has been far from its apex the past few years, and in fact his last win was the 2015 British. But he has cashed top-15 in the two subsequent Opens. Johnson hasn't missed a British cut since 2006; he tied for 20th at Carnoustie in 2007. He's even coming off a tie for 12th at last month's U.S. Open, so it's evident he can continue to deliver in big events. Johnson is ranked 13th in bogey avoidance, 25th in strokes gained: around the green and 33rd in scrambling.
Tony Finau - $7,200 (60-1)
Finau has played the Open twice, T18 in his 2016 debut and T27 last year. And he already has top-10s in the first two majors this year, so this price seems low, maybe by a lot. As we've mentioned here often, putting is the weak point of Finau's game, but you can negotiate Carnoustie with mediocre putting. Finau is ranked 18th in strokes gained: approach, 32nd off the tee and 39th in bogey avoidance.
Thorbjorn Olesen - $7,200 (100-1)
The Dane has not come close to matching his T9 at the Open back in 2009, but he is playing a hot hand coming in. Olesen won the Italian Open over Francesco Molinari last month, then tied for second at the BMW International and for sixth at the Irish Open two weeks ago. The Italian was his fifth career European Tour win.
Peter Uihlein - $7,000 (150-1)
Uihlein cut his teeth playing in Europe, and only recently has gotten status on the PGA Tour. He's finished fifth twice recently at the Wells Fargo and the Memorial, after which his world ranking moved inside the top-50. Uihlein tied for 12th at the Irish Open two weeks ago. He tied for 44th last year at Royal Birkdale. Uihlein is ranked 52nd on the U.S. Tour in greens in regulation and 54th in scrambling.
Charley Hoffman - $7,000 (125-1)
There's no question that Hoffman's game has slipped this season, as he has fallen outside the top-25 in the world. But there's no denying his competence in big tournaments. He's finished top-25 in five of the past six majors, including T20 last year at Royal Birkdale, his best-ever showing at the British. Hoffman also tied for 20th in another elite field at the WGc-Mexico back in March. And he was T19 last week in Scotland. Despite a subpar season overall, Hoffman is top-70 in strokes gained: total, off the tee, tee to green and approach.
Jason Dufner- $6,900 (150-1)
Dufner has never contended at the Open, but he has finished top-25 the past two years and has made five successive cuts. Dufner hasn't had a good season, but still has the veteran wherewithal for the occasional good week in big events, such as a tie for fifth at The Players and a T25 at the U.S. Open.
Alexander Bjork - $6,800 (200-1)
The 28-year-old Swede has played in only one major, missing the cut last year at Royal Birkdale. Bjork has been on quite a run this season, however, winning for the first time on the European Tour at the China Open in late April. He hasn't slowed down much, with T8-T14-T19 in the past three weeks in Italy, Ireland and Scotland. Bjork is ranked eighth on the Euro Tour in stroke average, eighth in driving accuracy, 22nd in greens in regulation and seventh in putts per GIR