The Open Championship
Royal Birkdale - Par 70 - 7,156 yards
Field - 156 Entrants
Purse - $10.25M
The modern era of golf includes a vast pool of young talent that regularly produces victories -- there have been 18 different Tour winners in their 20s through 36 events this season -- but for one week the “elderly” are among the favorites. Out of the nine past champions listed below, Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen are the only Open Championship winners under 35 years old. The third major of the year typically requires patience and experience, lending an advantage to veterans who don’t mind playing in brutal conditions. Royal Birkdale, a par-70 layout and site of the 2008 Open Championship, makes its return to the rotation this week. The weather isn’t projected to be as dreadful as it was when Padraig Harrington won with a total score of three-over the last time the event was held here, but heavy wind and spells of rain figure to play a role in the outcome once again. The course features uncharacteristically flat fairways, but they are still among the toughest to hit in regulation and are lined with penalizing rough. Driving accuracy will be essential for success this week, along with the usual SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Approach statistics. The Open Championship also generally rewards scrambling wizards and shot makers who excel in controlling ball flight and shape.
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 (@ Royal Birkdale)
2007 - Padraig Harrington
FantasyDraft Value Picks - based on $100,000 salary cap
Cream of the Crop
Sergio Garcia - $17,100
A major championship hangover never hit Garcia after his win at the Masters, as he has finished no worse than T30 in five events since Augusta, including a runner-up most recently at the BMW International Open. He is priced $400 less than fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm, and makes a particularly appealing option as opposed to Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, who aren’t playing quite well enough to justify an $18,000-plus salary. Garcia placed T5-T6-T2 throughout his last three Open Championship appearances, and he’s currently top-3 on Tour in both SG: T2G and SG: Off-the-Tee.
Rickie Fowler - $16,800
Fowler is past due for his first career major victory, and the pressure continues to build for the 28-year-old. Fowler’s game fits the mold to contend this week at Royal Birkdale -- he’s third in SG: Putting, eighth in SG: Approach, 10th in SG: T2G, third in total driving, and first in sand save percentage on Tour this season. He’s made 6-of-7 cuts during his career at the Open Championship, and the 10th-ranked player in the OWGR is coming off a stretch of T9-T3-T5 in his past three events.
Justin Rose - $16,800
Rose won the silver medal for low amateur at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old in 1998, finishing T4 during his Open Championship debut. The Englishman has embarked on a decorated journey as a professional, but he remains with just one career major championship at the 2013 U.S. Open. At 36 years old Rose is in the prime age range to win the Open with a combination of experience and skill set: he’s currently top-10 on Tour in all of SG: OTT, SG: Around-the-Green, and birdie-or-better percentage.
Tommy Fleetwood - $16,600
One of the chalkier picks this week, Fleetwood is a local boy who grew up playing at Royal Birkdale, so he will have the home-field advantage despite missing the Open Championship cut three years in a row. With finishes of T10-1-T6-4 in his last four events worldwide, Fleetwood has ascended to a career-best 14th in the OWGR.
Adam Scott - $16,000
Scott’s price has fallen below “elite” company due to zero top-five finishes so far in 2017, but the Australian placed T5 or better in three of the last five Open Championships. The 37-year-old is top-10 among the field in terms of SG: T2G and SG: Approach throughout his last 12 rounds.
Branden Grace - $15,500
Look for Grace to take advantage if the wind consistently howls in Southport this week, as the South African’s low ball flight translates to success in tough weather conditions. He was 10th in the OWGR at this time of the year in 2016, but has since fallen to No. 35. Grace has four top-15s in his last six events, however, and he’s 20th among the field in SG: Total throughout his past 12 rounds.
Patrick Reed - $14,700
Before a missed cut at last week’s Scottish Open, Reed had finally found his groove with seven top-25s in a span of eight events. The MC in Scotland shouldn’t be of much concern, and he’s still 12th among the field in SG: Total and second in SG: Putting throughout his last 12 rounds. The 22nd-ranked player in the OWGR finished top-20 the last two years at the Open Championship.
Matt Kuchar - $14,100
Coming off a stretch of T9-T12-T4-T16 followed by a T4 at last week’s Scottish Open, the world’s 18th-ranked player is a steal at this price. Kuchar is top-25 on Tour in both par-three and par-four scoring this season, while also ranking 10th in scrambling and 41st in driving accuracy.
Ian Poulter - $13,700
Ranking first among the field throughout his last 12 rounds in SG: T2G, Poulter’s ball striking has come around in recent months, and he is up to No. 78 in the OWGR after beginning 2017 outside of the top 180. He put in solid prep work at the Scottish Open last week, where he finished T9, and he was also seventh in driving accuracy and 20th in GIR percentage. Poulter was runner-up to Padraig Harrington in the 2008 Open Championship when the event was last held at Royal Birkdale.
Bill Haas - $12,600
Haas is on a roll since missing three consecutive cuts, with finishes of T37-T13-T5-T25-T12 in his last five starts. Currently ranked 37th in the OWGR, he’s fifth on Tour in scrambling, 10th in GIR percentage, and 25th in par-four scoring. He provides great value at just $12,600 and he finished T9 at last year’s Open Championship.
Ryan Fox - $11,900
The 14th-ranked player in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai is on fire, posting results of T4-T4-6-T26-T23-T21 over his last six events. He was eighth among the field in GIR percentage during his most recent top-5 at last week’s Scottish Open. The 30-year-old also bombs it off the tee, ranking fifth in driving distance on the Euro Tour.
Stewart Cink - $11,600
Cink took home the Claret Jug at the 2009 Open Championship, where he notched the only major win of his career; but at 44 years old, the veteran is back in form and capable of posting a top-25 at Royal Birkdale. Cink is up to 60th in the FedExCup standings without any finishes better than a few T10s this season, and he has steadily provided value as a cheaper option in cash-game formats. He’s 13th on Tour in SG: Approach, 17th in GIR percentage, and 23rd in SG: Putting.