This week the best players in the world have gathered at Royal Portrush for the 2019 Open Championship. The Dunluce Links is one of the best courses in Europe but will be unfamiliar to most players and viewers. Here are some things you should expect to see.
Conditions will be very firm, especially on the greens. Missing these greens will wreak havoc on a player’s score, as many of them are surrounded by short-grass runoffs. Along the fairways, the rough is patchy and in certain places brutal, so luck will play a role with lies on errant shots. On at least four holes, out-of-bounds stakes lurk just off the edge of the fairway. Players will have to either commit to their shot or bail out in the rough on the opposite side of the fairway. All in all, Royal Portrush should be a ball-strikers paradise. You will need to drive the ball accurately and hit your irons purely. You won’t be able to contend if you only are doing one of those well; you’ll need both.
Royal Portrush isn’t your typical Open course with millions of bunkers that might encourage an abundance of long to mid-irons of the tee. Players will be hitting drivers, 3-woods, and some driving irons. Those who try to lay back off the tee may struggle to score here because the greens are so firm and will tend to reject mid-irons. So the path to success this week will likely involve driving it on a string to set up wedges and short irons, which in turn will lead to plenty of birdie attempts. In terms of a preferred ball flight, players who hit it left to right will have a slight advantage.
Let’s take a look at a few players who could contend this week at Royal Portrush:
Patrick Cantlay $9,000
Cantlay is one of the best overall ball-strikers in the world. He is one of only four players in the field to be top 10 in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach over their last 50 rounds. (Rory, DJ, and Woodland are the other three.) In recent majors, Cantlay has been knocking on the door. He was in the hunt on the back nine at Augusta, ultimately finishing ninth. He was third at the PGA and 21st at the U.S. Open. Also, he finished 12th at last year’s Open. These trends make Cantlay a great DraftKings play because they indicate his consistency, upside, and birdie-making potential.
Gary Woodland $8,200
Woodland notched his first major victory at the U.S. Open, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him add another this week. Once players break through for their first major, they often contend or win another in the near future. Plus, Woodland’s game suits Royal Portrush perfectly. His game is built on supreme ball-striking off the tee and on approach (he’s top 10 in both over his past 50 rounds). His preferred ball flight is left to right, he makes a lot of birdies, and, with his famed stinger, he’s a very good wind player. In his career at the Open, he is a perfect 7/7 in made cuts. It’s hard to think of many better DraftKings plays this week.
If you are near the top of the standings in your league and have any of the following players left, I would use them: Koepka, DJ, Rory, Rose, and Rahm. If you don’t—or need to catch up in the standings—here are two alternatives:
The defending champ has somehow gone under the radar so far this week. His game suits this course well. A ball-striking machine who can avoid the many pitfalls at Royal Portrush, Molinari is a great option in One-and-Done leagues this week because you probably have him available and most people won’t pick him.
Schauffele is a miniature Koepka in that his performances in majors exceed his record elsewhere. In four of the past seven major championships, he has finished sixth or better, and he was runner-up at the Open last year. If he keeps knocking on the door, a victory will come soon.