With Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy each missing the cut in their last two weeks, the gap between the top couple of tiers doesn’t seem significantly large right now. As such, instead of going with just one of the elite options, I’m rolling with three guys in the $9,000 range.
It starts with Henrik Stenson, who is my most expensive player but may also be my riskiest player. The 41-year-old missed four straight cuts earlier in the season, and at $9,600, it’s difficult to trust someone who can drop off a cliff like that, especially when there are so many more consistent options priced around him.
However, that recent cold streak may result in a lower ownership percentage, and Stenson seems to have regained his form, finished third, 26th, 10th and 26th in his last four starts on European soil. Over the last 24 rounds, he ranks first in the field in fairways gained and second in good drives gained.
The 41-year-old doesn’t have big power, but he can club down and hit fairways as well as anyone. And at Royal Birkdale, that’s going to be massively important.
“The big thing about Birkdale is that it’s surrounded by those dunes and long grass,” said Johnny Miller, who won the Open there in 1976. “It’s actually pretty hard to scramble if you hit it wildly, unlike Troon or some of those other courses where you can hit it out in the car park. Birkdale, if you hit it wildly, it’s pretty penal.”
Hideki Matsuyama feels like robbery as just the 10th most expensive option. Not only is the World No. 2 the only player on Tour this year with five Top-2 finishes (two wins, three runners-up), but he has consistently fared well against strong fields this year: Win at the WGC-HSBC, second at the Tournament of Champions, 11th at the Masters, 22nd at the Players and most recently, second at the US Open.
The latter finish may be sneaky predictive of what’s to come this week, as Erin Hills forced players to keep the ball straight and hit fairways, much like Birkdale will do.
Enter Rickie Fowler, who opened with a blazing 65 and ultimately finished fifth at that tournament. Not only did that continue a red-hot season for the 28-year-old (a win and nine Top-12’s in 14 events, including both majors), but he loves links golf. He has two career Top-5’s at the Open Championship, he won in Scotland in 2015, and he finished ninth there last week.
According to the oddsmakers, he’s quite the bargain at $9,200:
After our elite three, we have to jump down to the low $7,000’s for the second half of our lineup.
Francesco Molinari and Matt Kuchar are two more straight hitters. Over the last 24 rounds, Molinari is sixth in fairways gained, while Kuchar is 11th. On the year, Molinari ranks 24th in strokes gained off the tee and third in driving accuracy, while Kuch is 44th and 41st, respectively.
Another thing to like about Kuchar: He’s on some kind of heater right now, finishing ninth, 12th, fourth, 16th (US Open) and fourth in his last five. He’ll be a popular play, but his style, form and price make him difficult to pass up.
Finally, we have Andy Sullivan, who comes in with three Top-20 finishes in a row, including a T9 at last week’s Scottish Open. But not only that, the Englishman clearly has adoration for this tournament, as he has finished 30th and 12th in his two starts.
Other players I’ll have exposure to this week: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Alex Noren, Bernd Wiesberger, Charl Schwartzel, Peter Uihlein, Russell Knox, Daniel Berger, Ross Fisher