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RotoBaller PGA DFS: Horse For The Course - 2019 Open Championship

What's up guys? Y'all heard anything about a golf tournament overseas this week? We'll dive into the Open Championship in just a second, but I do want to recap the John Deere Classic just a bit.

We knew going in that the JDC field was one of the weakest we've seen this season. Dylan Frittelli outlasted the likes of Russell Henley and Andrew Landry to capture his first victory on the PGA Tour. Frittelli gained over seven strokes on the greens at TPC Deere Run, despite ranking just 139th on the PGA Tour in SG: Putting this season. It serves as a strong reminder that these elite ball strikers just need one hot putting week to do some serious damage.

The other thing that sticks out for me from the JDC is that the Tour's crop of youngsters showed up yet again. Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann, and Viktor Hovland all overcame slow starts to log solid finishes. As the season winds down, these young guys will continue to be a great source of DFS scoring for us.

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2019 Open Championship Overview

You guys know what's at stake this week in Northern Ireland. After a reshuffle of the schedule, the Open Championship now stands as the last major of the year and serves as the last chance of 2019 for players to change their lives with a major championship win.

Of course, every elite player in the world has turned up at Royal Portrush (though I wish Morikawa, Wolff, and Hovland were in the field) for the club's first Open in over 60 years. There are a couple of notable 'hometown' narratives at play this week, with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell being the most obvious examples of guys that will have an advantage with 'course knowledge'. Franceso Molinari is the defending Open champion and he'll be joined by all the usual suspects this week.

I try to make HFTC more than just a regular 'picks' article (though you can certainly use it that way if you need to) and while I often use course history as a foundation, there are no 'rules' here other than to get you the best PGA DFS info possible. We had a really nice week last week, let's do it again!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.


The Course: Royal Portrush (Dunluce Course)

Par 71 - 7,344 Yards, Greens: Bentgrass

The one thing we know about Royal Portrush this week is that there's a lot that we don't know about Royal Portrush this week. The course last hosted an Open in 1951, which is no help to us here. Portrush did play host to the 2012 Irish Open, but, besides being seven years ago, has undergone significant renovations in preparation for the Open.

The fairways are fairly wide, but are flanked by the most penalizing Open rough that we've seen in years. Fairway bunkers will also add another degree of difficulty to tee shots at Portrush. Length could be a big advantage, as it can take some of the bunkers out of play, but 'bomb and gouge' won't work with this rough. Another big unknown this week is the weather. At the moment conditions look as though they will be fairly benign this week, which would favor the bombers, but weather can materialize at any time at Portrush. The greens are tricky, but will feel slow to the Americans in the field.

This is a tough week to target specific traits, but I'll definitely be leaning toward ball strikers that find fairways. Great iron play will be a must and it never hurts to have some prior Open experience and hot form.


The Horse

Henrik Stenson (DK - $8,400 & FD - $10,100)

Notable Open Championship History: Win (2016), T35 ('18), 2nd ('13), 3rd ('08)
Recent Form: T4 (Scottish Open), T9 (U.S. Open), T8 (RBC Canadian Open), T37 (Memorial)

Before we dive into the players here, let me urge you to check out my 2019 Open Championship DFS Bible, where you will find a more in-depth look at all the golfers in this week's field.

Ok, with that out of the way, let's talk about my Horse this week...Henrik Stenson. As I mentioned in the course breakdown above, I'm targeting ball strikers with great iron play, Open experience, and strong recent form this week. 'The Iceman' checks every one of those boxes for me.

Stenson slumped at the end of 2018 and the beginning of this year as he fought through a nagging elbow injury, but the Swede has been firing on all cylinders recently. With no disrespect to Tiger Woods, Stenson is the best iron player in the world at the moment. He ranks first in this elite field in Strokes Gained: Approach over his last 24 & 50 rounds. The dude hasn't lost strokes with his irons in a tournament since FEBRUARY!

Stenson is never going to rate out well in SG: Off The Tee, just because of his lack of length, but he's super reliable with his infamous 3-wood. He ranks fifth in the field in both Fairways Gained & Good Drives Gained. If (and I'm just guessing here) the weather or rough force the bombers to keep driver in the bag, I really like Stenson's chances on an even playing field.

He brings both excellent form and a strong record of Open success to Portrush. Stenson has went T4-T8-T9 in his last three starts and in addition to his Open win in 2016, he's missed just two cuts in 14 Open starts.


The Ponies

Rory McIlroy (DK - $11,600 & FD - $12,000)

Notable Open History: Win (2014), T2 ('18), T4 ('17), T5 ('16)
Recent Form: T34 (Scottish Open), T9 (U.S. Open), Win (RBC Canadian Open), M/C (Memorial)

Rory McIlroy is probably a pretty obvious player to highlight, but there are just too many positives here to ignore. He comes from Northern Ireland and he holds the Royal Portrush course record of 61, which he shot when he was 16-year-old. Yep...I think it's safe to say that Rors will be pretty comfortable with his surroundings this week.

He's playing the best golf we've seen from him in years in 2019. He won both the Players and the RBC Canadian Open, and has only finished outside the top 10 in THREE tournaments the entire year. McIlroy hits it long and straight off the tee (first in SG: OTT), has exhibited sharp iron play (second in SG: Approach) and has putted good enough (43rd in SG: Putting). His Open record is elite, as he's ran off three-straight top-five finishes since winning at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

My only hesitance when it comes to Rory (and I touch on this in the Open Bible) is that it just all seems too perfect. That might sound a little paranoid, but how often do these "perfect situations" actually pan out? Yes, it's his home country and a course he's very familiar with...but with those advantages also comes TONS of expectations and pressure. Now, there's no doubt that Rory can rise to the occasion, he didn't get where he is by shrinking away from pressure and expectations, but it is worth considering before spending all the way up to $11.6k.


Adam Scott (DK - $8,800 & FD - $10,500)

Notable Open History: T17 ('18), T10 ('15), T5 ('14), T3 ('13), 2nd ('12)
Recent Form:T7 (U.S. Open), 2nd (Memorial), T8 (PGA), T18 (Masters)

Man...I still get sick to my stomach when I think about Adam Scott gifting the 2012 Open Championship to Ernie Els. Sickening. Anyway, moving on...I think that Scotty has a great chance for redemption at Portrush this week.

We've always known the Aussie has 'win many major championships' type of talent, but at 39-years-old he still has just one on his resume. After some years with golf on the back burner, Scott has refocused on the game over the last two years and the results have been impressive. He played very well in the last major of 2018 and has carried that momentum into this season, missing just two cuts in 2019 with runner-up finishes at the Farmers and Memorial, a T18 at the Masters, and top-10s at both the PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

Scott's strong finishes have been powered by his rejuvenated short game. He ranks first in the field in SG: Around the Green over his last 24 rounds and his much-derided putting troubles have all but vanished, as he's gained strokes putting in all but two of his 2019 starts. He's world-class tee to green (second in the field SG: T2G) and has a tremendous history of success in Open Championships.

Like Stenson, Scott will probably be really popular on DK, but I'm willing to swallow the chalk and attempt to differentiate my lineups in other spots. There are some players that I really like in the $9k price range (Xander & Cantlay, specifically), but I will basically be camped out in this $8k range when constructing rosters this week. With Stenson and Scott as my linchpins, I'll also be mixing in very heavy doses of Matt Kuchar ($8.7k) and Hideki Matsuyama ($8.5k).


Rafa Cabrera-Bello (DK - $7,500 & FD - $9,300)

Notable Open History: 74th ('18), T4 ('17), T39 ('16)
Recent Form: T9 (Scottish Open) T4 (Irish Open), T3 (BMW International), 65th (U.S. Open)

Those of you that are considering rostering Rory, Brooks, or one of the other high-priced options will need to familiarize yourselves with this price range. If we are looking at current form, Rafa Cabrera-Bello is definitely worth consideration.

Rafa started off 2019 in hot form with four-straight top-25s to kick off the year, including a T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Spaniard cooled off as we headed into the meat of the PGA Tour schedule, but he has regained his form since crossing the Atlantic after a 65th-place finish at the U.S. Open. Rafa has went T9-T4-T3 in his three most recent starts in Europe, a strong indicator that he's found something with his game.

His Open record is solid, but not spectacular. One interesting note is that Cabrera-Bello recorded a 14-under par second-place finish in the 2012 Irish Open that was held at Royal Portrush. So while the course has undergone some changes, Rafa is one of the few players in this week's field that have actually played the course in tournament conditions.

He won't pop in many statistical models, because his recent Euro Tour rounds weren't recorded in most stat engines, but I don't think he'll go overlooked at this price.


Patrick Reed (DK - $7,200 & FD - $8,200)

Notable Open History: T28 ('18), M/C ('17), T12 ('16), T20 ('15)
Recent Form: T23 (3M Open), T5 (Rocket Mortgage), T30 (Travelers), T32 (U.S. Open)

Sticking in the mid-$7k price range to round out the week, I'm gonna give Patrick Reed some serious consideration in this spot. In seemingly every major championship there is at least one player that seems seriously underpriced. It was Matt Kuchar at the Masters and Webb Simpson at the U.S. Open. This week, it feels like Reed is wearing the crown of 'guy that's just too cheap'.

We all know the personality issues that surround Reed. He's got a checkered past and a seemingly complicated personal life, but you have to respect what the guy's done in the game of golf, as he's went from getting on the PGA Tour by playing Monday qualifiers to winning the Masters last year. Reed hasn't found the winner's circle since slipping on the green jacket and we know that the guy is a proven winner.

Like the aforementioned Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Reed isn't going to pop statistically (he never does), but after his game seemingly went off a cliff back in the spring, he's been steadily rounding back into form. He's gained over six strokes on approach in each of his last two starts (that's massive) and when Reed's iron game is clicking he's one of the best players in the world. His Open resume is solid and he's shown himself to be comfortable playing links golf. Reed could easily find himself in the mix this weekend if his putter cooperates at Portrush.

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