Another Major means another edition of Blood, Sweat, and Tiers! This article glowingly supported Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen amongst others who found their way to the top at The US Open, and you probably faired pretty well in your pools, bets, or DFS cards if you followed along. The backend research this week is a bit different without the aid of any modeling due to the lack of historic SG data at The Open, but we still have plenty of information to go off of to profile what a successful Open Championship player looks like. With all that being said, here’s a deep dive into all the best Bets, DFS Values, Dark Horses, and Fades by Pricing Tier for this week’s Open Championship.
Tier 1: $10K+
Players: Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele
Best Bet to Win: Brooks Koepka (+1800)
The US Open’s Blood, Sweat, & Tiers article kicked off by touting Jon Rahm as the best bet to win in this spot, and that worked out fairly well for us. This time around, Rahm finds himself at the top of the board once again, but I’m far less interested. Instead, we turn to Brooks Koepka.
It’s always a good idea to consider Brooks Koepka in a Major, and even though all of his Major victories have come at either the US Open or PGA Championship, that hasn’t stopped him from firing off 3 T10s over his last 4 Open Championships. Given all the randomness in the waves of inclement weather we see year over year at The Open, it’s especially impressive to see that level of consistency at the top of the board year over year at these events. And it’s no coincidence that Brooks has found all this success overseas; he began his career on the Champions Tour, picking up his first career win at the Challenge de Catalunya in Spain. On his journey to more permanent PGA Tour status, Brooks was no stranger to links course events, with 3 more T10 finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a T12 at the Scottish Open, and a win at the Scottish Hydro Challenge all in the UK over the course of his career. 7 of Brook’s 15 starts in the 2021 season have resulted in finishes of T7 or better, so this is a great price to chase his upside as an outright.
Best DFS Value: Xander Schauffele ($10,000)
There’s not a player in this tier who I expect to play poorly, or even have reason to believe will finish outside the Top 20, so if there are no red flags to fear from anyone, conventional wisdom says take the cheapest one to get the most value. I’m a neutral Xander bystander for the most part, but it’s hard to ignore what he’s done both recently in the 2021 season, and historically at Open Championships, which are really the only two performance touchpoints we can make decisions off of to handicap this tournament. Besides Jordan Spieth, Xander is the only player in the field this week who ranks inside the Top 10 in Recent Form (#8 SG: TOT L36) and Event History at The Open (#9 SG: TOT L12). In his 16 appearances since the 2020 TOUR Championship, Xander only has 3 finishes outside the Top 20. The absence of a win since January 2019 may give some people cold feet to pay up here, but with pricing as soft as we’ve ever seen on Draft Kings this week, you can pretty easily pair up Xander with somebody else who has the win upside, if you think another runner up finish is his ceiling.
Dark Horse: Dustin Johnson
In the last Major, it was Justin Thomas for me who checked all the boxes I was looking for in this upper elite tier despite going over looked and under owned, and this time around, I feel exactly the same about Dustin Johnson.
Truthfully for me, Dustin Johnson is 1a, 1b with Brooks Koepka as the best bet in this range, and I could argue he’s also the best value in terms of DFS pricing. But what gets me most excited to play Dustin Johnson this week is that nobody is jumping to play him, so I really want to highlight his value as a leverage play more than anything else. I got a lot of my thoughts out in my Tournament Preview about everything that excites me about DJ, but one thing I didn’t talk enough about is the Royal St. George’s experience. There has not been a professional event played at Royal St. George’s since The Open in 2011, and as we look at the players this week who are sub-50/1, only three of them have ever teed it up here before: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Louis Oosthuizen. Rory shot +7 for a T25 and Louis shot +13 for a T54, so we can confidently say that Dustin Johnson is the only top-tier player in this field who’s had any success on these grounds. On a course that needs to be navigated strategically, I’m always going to side with proven course history. The last time I bet Dustin Johnson in the 20s, he won the Northern Trust by a modest 11 strokes. A player as talented as DJ doesn’t need to come into an event with any form in order to kick it into high gear as he’s shown in the past.
Fade: Jon Rahm
Is it crazy to fade Jon Rahm? Perhaps. He (basically) won the Memorial and The US Open back to back, and then looked like he was going to make it 3* straight at the Scottish Open last week before fizzling to a modest Top 10 finish. The Spaniard has a good history on links courses over his career, but in my opinion, there’s far less working in his favor this week than when he opened at the same odds for the US Open at Torrey Pines. Going into the US Open, Rahm backers had the security of knowing he’d finished T3 at the 2019 US Open and picked up his first career Tour win at The Farmers, also at Torrey Pines. But going into The Open this week, Rahm has never player Royal St. George’s before, and has never finished inside the T10 at an Open Championship in his four career appearances. Those results are a lackluster T59, T44, MC, and T11. At Torrey Pines, you really needed to be long off the tee to give yourself opportunities. At Royal St. George’s, there are just too many unknown variables that can throw even the best in the world off their games. You can get hit with random gusts, you can stripe the middle of the fairway but catch the wrong side of an undulation into the fescue, or you can narrowly miss an approach shot into deep greenside pot bunkers that will challenge even the most skilled players in the world. Rahm is the deserved favorite, but this is one event it may not be worth paying up to have the best player in.
Tier 2: $9K
Players: Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Louis Oosthuizen, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton
Best Bet to Win: Jordan Spieth (+2200)
It’s Jordan Spieth by a wide margin in this range for me, who’s puzzlingly slipped down to +2200 on several books despite being the most popularly touted player across the industry this week. I’ve since scooped him up at that +2200 number, and my personal insistence to keep him on my betting card is what has consequently crossed off the entire mid-range of the board from my card. I’m as confident as one can be in how Spieth profiles coming into Royal St. George’s. Simply put, Jordan Spieth is #1 SG: TOT L36 rounds and he’s also #1 SG: TOT at The Open L24 rounds. Spieth’s last 5 results at The Open read: T20, T9, 1st, T30, and T4. His ability to recover from impossible situations and create magic around the greens is exactly what you need to sustain success on the Open links, and now that his game has started to round out into vintage form, he may not even need to rely on these miraculous recovery shots as often as he’s had to in the past.
So to recap, the most talked about player in the industry has the best statistical recent form and best event history, but it still sitting on odds boards at 20/1+. What are you waiting for?
Best DFS Value: Tyrrell Hatton ($9,000)
He is undoubtedly the best value in this range, and if you’re passing over Tyrrell Hatton to play Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa instead at a higher price, we may need to have a chat separately. Hatton has won more events on links courses (2) than Hovland and Morikawa have made appearances combined at The Open (0). It may not seem like it, but Hatton has won 4 times between the PGA and Euro Tours since the last Open Championship was played in 2019. With a welcomed homecoming back to England, Hatton will look to add to his resume at The Open, which already includes a T5 and a T6 over his last 4 appearances.
Dark Horse: Louis Oosthuizen
Okay, maybe Louis isn’t going completely overlooked from a DFS perspective, projecting around 14% owned early on this week. But I really like his prospects as an outright bet and OAD play, and I haven’t seen too many others around the industry share that same confidence.
Oosty’s resurgence in 2021 has been no secret, with Runner Up finishes in two of his last 3 Tour starts, and those happen to have come at the last two Majors – The US Open and PGA Championship. The success at Torrey Pines and Kiawah Island (and even Winged Foot, where he finished T3 last year), has all come a bit surprisingly on three of the longest courses we’ve seen all year, which should on paper have favored the bombers. Oosthuizen, who ranks 87th in this field in Driving Distance, should welcome a 7,200 yard Major, and a return to the only event he’s actually been able to seal the deal at over the course of his career. He’s got the Event History, Recent Form, and short game prowess we’re all looking for this week, and I’m sure he’s eager to get this monkey off his back that’s been sitting there ever since his last win at The Open in 2010.
Fade: Bryson DeChambeau
Everything is working against Bryson right now. It’s his first tournament with the new caddy, he’s looked bad in every start over the last month (that includes The Match!), and he has some of the worst Open history in the field, especially in the $9K range, with no finishes inside the Top 30. While The USGA (falsely) thinks it can defend its courses from being bomb & gouged by growing out the rough, the R&A actually has a legitimate defense against inaccurate bombers: OB, unguarded wind, and fescue. If you miss the fairways even marginally, the ball is going to find OB areas, unplayable lies, or pot bunkers, that Bryson won’t be able to simply hack his way through like he has at recent US Opens.
Bryson is not going to be a popular play this week, we’ve already seen several books start to drop him as low as 30/1. But I’m against him enough to consider him in the MC market and target against him in matchups with anyone else in this $9K range.
Tier 3: $8K
Players: Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood
Best Bet to Win: Patrick Cantlay (+4000)
As I mentioned when talking about Jordan Spieth, I’m not betting anyone in this mid-tier range, but if I were to have structured my card differently, Cantlay is absolutely a player I had on a short list. He’s 2 starts removed from an incredibly impressive performance at the Memorial where he finished runner up to a reeling Jon Rahm (I’ll never let that joke die), and just seems to be a stylistic fit on a course that demands positioning and control off the tee and precise shot shaping with your approaches. Cantlay has only played in two Open Championships, but he’s looked solid early on with finishes of T12 and T41.
While we’re moving eastward, we have officially left the east coast, which means the we can throw away the Patrick Cantlay flowchart and play him freely.
Best DFS Value: Tony Finau ($8,400)
It’s odd that Tony Finau likes links courses, but he does, and he’s really good on them! He has one of the most polished Open Championship resumes on Tour, finishing T3, T9, T27, and T18 in his only four appearances. Outside of The Open, Tony has also finished inside the Top 15 in 3 of his last 4 Euro Tour events, highlighted by a Runner Up finish to Dustin Johnson this past February at the Saudi International.
Pricing is so soft this week, so as I always say with Tony T5 Finau, if you’re going to roster him, just make sure you’re also squeezing the eventual winner in there too.
Dark Horse: Tommy Fleetwood
I feel exactly the same way about Tommy Fleetwood as I do about shrimp. I’ve got nothing against him, when I’ve got a menu of options in front of me it’s always a decision I have to think long and hard about, but in the end I always go with something else. That is once again most likely going to be the case for me this week with the way I’m structuring my card and lineups, and looking at his early projected ownership at ~7%, it seems most others share the same sentiment. But is this actually the time we should give a second thought and make Tommy Fleetwood our entrée of choice?
All of the Englishmen this week should at least get a marginal bump for SG: Motivation with the Claret Jug on the line in their maiden country; it’s essentially their Super Bowl. Like Oosthuizen, Tommy is no stranger to the role of bridesmaid, finishing solo 2nd at the last Open Championship in 2019, to go along with another runner up Major finish at the 2018 U.S. Open in similarly difficult scoring conditions at Shinnecock Hills. He never really had a legitimate chance to win either event, but hey, remove Brooks Koepka and Shane Lowry from those two fields and all of a sudden, Tommy Fleetwood is a 2-time Major champion. At $8,000 and low ownership, he’ll find his way into a good share of my lineups this week.
Fade: Paul Casey
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Paul Casey is under-priced and over-owned in a Major championship. Chalk Casey has been a thing at basically every Major since the COVID restart, and although that has started to pay off with finishes of T7 and T4 in his last two Major starts, I’m not convinced that he can continue on with that success at The Open. Casey has awful history at The Open with just one finish inside the Top 40 over the last decade. While he’s a great ball striker, he’s not exactly a shot shaper, really just defaulting to a very straight piercing ball flight, and his short game has never been remarkable. There’s plenty of stats you can look at that may convince you that he’s due to breakout of this Open slump, but as far as the eye test goes, I’m just not convinced.
Tier 4: $7K
Players: Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Joaquin Niemann, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Daniel Berger, Garrick Higgo, Francesco Molinari, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Robert MacIntyre, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Harris English, Brendan Grace, Matt Wallace, Jason Kokrak, Alex Noren, Ian Poulter, Russell Henley, Danny Willett, Bernd Wiesberger, Max Homa, Guido Migliozzi, Brian Harman, Corey Conners, Brandt Snedeker, Erik van Rooyen, Matt Kuchar, Victor Perez, Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel
Best Bet to Win: Joaquin Niemann (+6600)
Joaquin Niemann is a true unicorn on my betting card this week any way you look at it. I’ve got past Open Champions like Oosthuizen, Molinari, and Spieth who I think can repeat that success, and then I’ve got Niemann who missed the cut in his only appearance at The Open. I’m eying seasoned veterans like Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood who can lean on their years of experience to navigate the challenges these everchanging elements will through their way, and then I’ve got Niemann who at 22 years old is one of the youngest players in the field. But while Joaquin Niemann doesn’t exactly fit the trends of a prospective Open Champion, there’s no denying the raw talent and ability is there, and that’s enough to get me excited at this number.
Last we saw Niemann, we went 72 bogey-free holes at the Rocket Mortgage Classic before so graciously bowing out of the playoff to hand me (and Cam Davis) the outright victory. That was Niemann’s third runner up finish of the year after starting 2021 with a pair of “almost” wins at the Sentry TOC and Sony Open. Niemann is still polishing his game, but it’s clear he’s been able to contend as far as his streaky short game will allow him. We’re venturing into very different conditions now than anything he’s seen on Tour, but if he can continue to gain 1+ stroke ARG as he’s done his last two weeks, the rest of his game is ready for a Major Championship run.
Best DFS Value: Robert MacIntyre ($7,300)
First things first, Daniel Berger is the best DFS value in this range. He’s grossly under-priced, you should play him in cash, and if you really like him, be overweight on him in GPPs. But a value play that does not go without saying, is my man Robert MacIntyre
The young Scot is quietly putting together one of the most consistent seasons of golf out of anyone across the world, with just 1 MC in 15 starts in 2021 between the PGA and Euro Tours. Winner of the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown last November, Bobby Mac fits the trend I’m looking for in players who have won a Non-PGA Tour event this season or last, while playing predominantly on the PGA Tour during this current season. That’s the formula that’s produced all but one winner at The Open since 2010 anyway. MacIntyre made his Open debut in 2019 with a bang, finishing T6 at Royal Portrush, so with a little more experience under his belt on the heels of a hot 2021 season, look for him to continue to build on that once again in 2021.
Dark Horse: Victor Perez
My favorite Frenchman, Victor Perez sits at a juicy $7,000 price tag on Draft Kings and can be found as high as 200/1 on the odds board. Most people don’t know this, but Perez has won on an Open Championship rotation course more recently than defending Open Champion, Shane Lowry has. A month after the 2019 Open Championship was contested, Perez picked up his first career professional victory on The Old Course at St. Andrews, beating a field that included Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, and Tyrrell Hatton to win the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. There are very few players in the field this week who can say they are Links champions, so knowing he possesses the skillset to win on this terrain should go a very long way for his 2021 Open Championship prospects. His 2021 season has been up and down, but the ups include a T9 at THE PLAYERS and T4 at the WGC Dell Match Play, two of the strongest fields we see all year. Few others in this price range possess the ceiling this young Frenchman has already shown early into his career.
Fade: Harris English
I love Harris English on courses with giant, wide open fairways where he can reach back for extra yards with the driver and know his next approach shot will be coming from the fairway. That worked out well for him at Kapalua where he won, and it worked out well for him for about 63 holes at the Palmetto Championship where he was primed to win before spontaneously combusting on the back nine Sunday (yes I’m still salty about that outright not cashing). Where I do not like Harris English, is in a links set up where a majority of the approaches are not played from the short stuff. English has 5 starts at The Open in his career and has finished inside the Top 40 just once. At nearly 15% projected ownership, I’m happy to pivot elsewhere.
Tier 5: $6K
Players: Everyone else
Best Bet to Win: Stewart Cink (+15000)
I’m getting an early sense from all around the fantasy golf community that Stewart Cink is the consensus play in the 100/1+ range. It makes sense considering he’s won twice on Tour this season at similar odds to what we see here, he’s won The Open back in 2009, and the last winner at Royal St. George’s was about his age having a similar renaissance season. I think this is a great week to diversify your betting cards to have some situational players in case the event plays out a few different ways, and if your card needs a wily, experienced veteran to fit that narrative, Cink is your guy. Last we saw him, he gained 8.6 strokes T2G at The Travelers, which would have been enough to win had he not paired it with one of his worst putting displays of the season. Assuming his putter doesn’t let him down again, his newfound distance, ball striking, and ability to hit a high percentage of greens in regulation should set him up to find the same success Darren Clarke experienced on these grounds in 2011.
Best DFS Value: Lucas Glover ($6,600)
Like Berger, the easy answer here is Sam Burns, but I’m not going to do that. Unlike Berger, Burns actually has a precipitously low floor, especially in difficult scoring conditions, so it’s easier to stomach a Burns fade, even at the egrigious evaluation of $6,300. So instead, we pivot to Lucas Glover.
I was really hoping Glover wouldn’t win last week to keep his ownership somewhat low, but as it turns out, nobody was impressed by his John Deere Classic win, as he’s still only about 5% in projected ownership. It’s not exactly the same, but Phil Mickelson won The Scottish Open the week prior to his Open Championship victory in 2013, so it wouldn’t be outrageous to see Glover follow up last week’s win with another strong outing. Like Cink, Glover was also a Major Champion in 2009, and carries a ton of Open experience with him over the years, including a T20 most recently in 2019 and a T12 when this event was last played at Royal St. George’s in 2011.
Dark Horse: Matt Jones
I go back to Matt Jones a lot because he’s found repeatable success in difficult conditions like these. The Australian has always been comfortable playing in wind, growing up on links style courses down under, and credited that upbringing to his success at The Honda Classic where he won earlier this year on another ~7,200 Par 70 track like this. Jones has not played in many Open Championships, but he has made the cut in 3 of his 4 career appearances, included two T40s over his last 3 trips. The ceiling is not especially high for Jones, but I love him as a T40 target this week on a course that should play into his strengths of low-flighted approaches and short game specialty.
Fade: Sam Burns
If Sam Burns has a great week, a-la Kyle Stanley at the Memorial when he was $6,200 chalk, it’s gonna be a long week for us. But he’s more likely to have a terrible week, with no Open experience and a poor track record on difficult scoring conditions, so let’s take the gamble that 20%+ of the field gets burnt by Burns. Truthfully, before the pricing mishap, I was never going to consider playing Burns at The Open, and now that the masses will be adding him for salary relief, I’m not ready to change my opinion on that stance.