Fantasy golf rankings: Top 50 players for 2017 British Open

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Fantasy golf rankings: Top 50 players for 2017 British Open

PGA Tour

Fantasy golf rankings: Top 50 players for 2017 British Open

The year’s third major, the British Open (or Open Championship for you purists), is upon us.

This year’s Open will be held at Royal Birkdale, considered one of the best in the Open rota along with St. Andrews and Royal Liverpool. The course is located in Southport, England, which is on the west coast of the United Kingdom. That means we can expect gusty winds and unexpected rain, even though the forecast as of right now looks to be fairly dry.

The par-70 course will play at 7,173 yards, including just 3,417 on the front nine (back nine features both par 5s on the course), but make no mistake, this is a tough golf course. Players need to keep the ball in the fairway, otherwise players could find lots of trouble – sand dunes, fescue, bushes, etc. Strong tee-to-green games will be a must, as will the ability to play in the elements. With strong winds expected, guys that flight it low should do well.

The winning score in 2008 was 3 over, so keep that in mind. We want guys who won’t make a ton of bogeys.

As I do with all the major championships, here are my expanded top 50 fantasy golf options for the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale:

1. Hideki Matsuyama: Nearly won the U.S. Open at Erin Hills thanks to a final-round 66 in high winds. Now No. 2 in the world, Matsuyama is on the brink of breaking through in a major. He ranks seventh on Tour in SGTTG, GIR and bogey avoidance, and 24th in SGATG. Not a great putter but will benefit from slower greens. T-14 in last start, at the Irish Open, followed T-2 at Erin Hills.

2. Jordan Spieth: After winning Travelers, his third finish of T-13 or better in his last four starts, Spieth took a vacation. He’ll arrive at Royal Birkdale recharged. He plays well in the wind, evidenced recently by his closing 69 at Erin Hills, and we already know he’s among the world’s best putters. He also leads the Tour in SGATG, and ranks fifth in GIR and sixth in SGTTG and bogey avoidance.

3. Dustin Johnson: Enters British having missed two straight cuts, at the U.S. Open and Memorial. Hadn’t finished worse than T-13 and posted three wins in seven starts before his back-to-back MCs. DJ leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and greens in regulation percentage. He’s ninth in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and fifth in bogey avoidance. If he can drive it well (he ranks 157th on Tour in driving accuracy), he could have a big week.

4. Sergio Garcia: Like Spieth, Garcia is well-rested entering the British. He’s already won one major this year (Masters) and hasn’t slowed down, notching five straight top-30 finishes since, including a T-2 most recently at the BMW International Open. He’s an elite tee-to-green playing, ranking third in SGTTG, sixth in GIR and 30th in driving accuracy. He’s also T-15 in bogey avoidance. He’s second on the European Tour in GIR. Tied for 15th at Birkdale in 2008 and was T-29 there in 1998. Like Matsuyama, his SGP rank (169th) will be less of a concern at the British.

Rickie Fowler (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Rickie Fowler: Stats geeks must love Fowler. He’s fourth on Tour in SGP, eighth in SGATG, ninth in bogey avoidance, 10th in SGTTG, 25th in GIR and 32nd in driving accuracy. He’s gone T-11 and T-5 at the year’s first two majors, and recently was T-3 at Quicken Loans. T-9 last week at Scottish Open. Great wind player.

6. Tommy Fleetwood: One of hottest players in the world, finishing fourth at U.S. Open before rattling off finishes of T-6, first and T-10 leading up to the British. Hometown guy who leads the European Tour in GIR and ranks 16th in driving accuracy.

7. Rory McIlroy: Missed two of last three cuts worldwide, failing to make the weekend at the U.S. Open and Irish Open. He’s playing the Scottish Open. Driving it long and straight (15th on the European Tour in driving accuracy), and ranks 20th on the European Tour in GIR. Tee-to-green game puts him among the favorites, but current form and putting keep him from ranking No. 1.

8. Justin Rose: Returns to Birkdale where he was T-70 in 2008 (with a third-round 82) and T-4 in 1998 (as an amateur). T-4 at Irish Open was his fifth top-4 finish of 2017. Ranks 141st on Tour in driving accuracy, but is 12th in SGTTG and 19th in GIR. Made trip to Birkdale earlier this week for some early practice.

9. Paul Casey: Nothing worse than 26th in last seven starts, including a T-5 his last time out at the Travelers. Held share of 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open before fading on the weekend. Should do better if in that position again at Birkdale. He hits it low and straight (40th on Tour in driving accuracy). He ranks T-2 in bogey avoidance, third in GIR, seventh in SGATG and ninth in SGTTG. Tied for seventh at Birkdale in 2008.

Jon Rahm (Getty Images)

10. Jon Rahm: Will be a popular pick after his Irish Open victory, his second win and seventh top-5 finish in 2017. However, Rahm has yet to show the mental toughness to contend at a major. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and earned headlines for his inability to control his temper. Rahm hits it high and is 123rd in driving accuracy on Tour, but his ballstriking stats are very good – second in SGTTG, fourth in SGATG and T-16 in GIR. He’s also 10th in bogey avoidance. So even though he’s young and inexperienced on the major stage, Rahm’s talent makes him a legit contender.

11. Marc Leishman: T-5 his last time out, at Quicken Loans, was his fourth finish of T-17 or better in his last six starts. He also hasn’t finished worse than T-34 during that span. Solid all-around player ranks 20th in SGATG, T-22 in bogey avoidance, 20th in SGTTG, 30th in SGP and 41st in GIR. Two of his three career major top 5s came at the British, in 2014 and ’15.

12. Henrik Stenson: Defending British Open champion, but hasn’t been in top form this year. He’s missed four of his last eight worldwide cuts, though he’s been better of late, tying for 10th at the BMW International Open. He seems to play better in Europe, ranking third on the European Tour in GIR and fourth in driving accuracy. He tied for third at Birkdale in 2008, and we all know what a weapon that 3-wood still is. T-26 at Scottish, but really with only one poor round.

13. Adam Scott: Hadn’t played since MC at the U.S. Open before tying for 35th at the Scottish, despite a 78 in the third round, too. Stats are solid – 15th in SGATG, 16th in SGTTG and 32nd in GIR – and he was T-16 here in 2008. Boasts five career top 10s at the British.

14. Brooks Koepka: British will mark his first start since his U.S. Open victory. Looked good in wind at Erin Hills with a final-round 67, which is promising for the British Open considering his high ball flight. Ranks 152nd on Tour in driving accuracy, 143rd in SGATG and 162nd in bogey avoidance, though that is highly affected by an early-season slump. Putter has been a big weapon (25th in SGP).

15. Matt Kuchar: Last four finishes entering Scottish start look like this – T-16, T-4, T-12, T-9. (He then tied for fourth at the Scottish.) Closed U.S. Open with 68 in windy conditions. Ranks 36th on Tour in driving accuracy, 26th in SGTTG, 13th in bogey avoidance and 45th in GIR. Did miss both cuts at Birkdale, in 2008 and 1998.

Phil Mickelson-Greenbrier Open

Phil Mickelson (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

16. Phil Mickelson: Returned to action with a T-20 at the Greenbrier (and a closing 64). The 2013 Open champ was T-19 at Birkdale in 2008, 79th in 1998 and T-73 as an amateur in 1991. Hasn’t missed a cut since last fall’s Deutsche Bank. Having a great putting year and is fifth in SGATG and 28th in SGTTG. Driving accuracy (178th on Tour) and high ball flight is always a concern with Lefty at the British, but he manage to play pretty well last year. Nothing worse than T-23 in last four British starts.

17. Francesco Molinari: Has climbed to 17th in the world, though he did miss the cut at the U.S. Open and followed that with a T-38 in France. Still, Molinari is an elite ballstriker, ranking second on Tour in SGATG, fourth in SGTTG, 35th in GIR. Oh, and he’s No. 3 on Tour in driving accuracy and 30th in bogey avoidance.

18. Jason Day: Hasn’t missed a British Open cut in six tries, but has just one finish better than T-22 in the event, a T-4 at St. Andrews in 2015. Has missed two straight cuts coming into Birkdale. High-ball hitter and 145th in driving accuracy, 156th in SGATG and 166th in bogey avoidance. Even his No. 46 ranking in SGTTG isn’t elite. Still, even with the concerns, Day could return to form at any time.

19. Louis Oosthuizen: Surprisingly, has only two finishes at the British better than T-19, his win in 2010 and T-2 in 2015, both at St. Andrews. Hasn’t missed a cut since last year’s British. T-23 in last start, at the U.S. Open, his third straight top-25 finish worldwide. Ballstriking stats down slightly this season but still good – 14th in SGTTG, 54th in GIR and T-45 in driving accuracy. Ranks 26th in SGP and T-15 in bogey avoidance.

20. Bernd Wiesberger: Big fan of the Austrian. Drives it straight (54th on European Tour in driving accuracy) and hits greens (21st in GIR). Also playing lights-out – a win, three other top 16s and nothing worse than T-30 in his last eight worldwide starts. T-51 at Scottish.

Daniel Berger (Getty Images)

21. Daniel Berger: Has a win and a runner-up finish in last three starts, and was T-5 at the John Deere Classic. Missed cut in only British Open start, at St. Andrews in 2015. But stats show he’ll likely do better this year – 19th in SGATG, 24th in SGP, 26th in bogey avoidance, 30th in SGTTG and 39th in GIR.

22. Brandt Snedeker: Always overlooked in this major for some reason, yet he has five finishes of T-22 or better at the British, including his T-3 in 2012. Seems to be recovered from his hand injury as he tied for ninth at the U.S. Open and tied for 14th at the Travelers. Ranks 31st on Tour in bogey avoidance, 51st in SGATG and GIR, and 63rd in driving accuracy. Missed cut at Birkdale in 2008.

 

23. Justin Thomas: Streaky player has missed two straight cuts since his T-9 at the U.S. Open, where he fired a third-round 63. High-ball hitter who ranks 165th in driving accuracy. However, other stats are good – 16th in SGATG, 18th in SGTTG, 33rd in GIR and 35th in bogey avoidance.

Bill Haas Scotty Cameron putter

Bill Haas (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

24. Bill Haas: T-37 at Greenbrier was his first non-top-25 in five starts. Figured out the British last year at Troon, tying for ninth. T-2 in bogey avoidance, ninth in GIR, 27th in SGTTG and 43rd in SGATG. Played well in wind at Erin Hills with a final-round 69.

25. Jason Dufner: Will be well rested since he hasn’t pegged it since MC at U.S. Open. Before that, though, he won the Memorial and has six top-15 finishes in his last 12 starts. Ranks 18th on Tour in SGATG, 24th in SGTTG, 28th in driving accuracy and 38th in GIR. Has made five straight cuts at the British, including T-22 last year.

26. Alex Noren: Cracked top 15 (with a win) in four of last six worldwide starts, but missed cut at Scottish. Scary to see he ranks 219th on PGA Tour in driving accuracy, but he is ninth on the European Tour in GIR. Tied for 19th at Birkdale in 2008.

27. Patrick Reed: Playing good golf again with seven finishes of T-22 or better in his last nine starts, including a T-13 at the U.S. Open. (He did, however, miss Scottish cut.) Not an elite ballstriker (133rd in SGATG) and not the straightest off the tee (131st in driving accuracy), but putter is great (14th in SGP). Game travels well, and he’s gone T-20 and T-12 in his last two British starts.

28. Shane Lowry: Odds are good despite No. 73 world ranking. Good ballstriker, especially in bad weather, ranks 33rd on Tour in SGTTG, 34th in GIR and 46th in SGATG. Hasn’t had a great year, but has cracked top 20 three times in last five starts worldwide, including T-20 at the Irish Open.

29. Matthew Fitzpatrick: Has gone T-35, MC, T-54, MC since T-2 at Nordea Masters. Great short game and ranks 14th on European Tour in GIR. However, he’s 159th in driving accuracy. Missed cut at Troon last year after tying for 44th as an amateur at Muirfield in 2013.

Steve Stricker (Getty Images)

30. Steve Stricker: Don’t overlook the veteran. He wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t think he could contend. Fourth last year at Troon, and three total top 10s at the Open. Low ball flight and ranks No. 1 on Tour in driving accuracy. Also T-22 in SGP and 28th in bogey avoidance. T-7 at Birkdale in 2008 and T-52 in 1998, so he likes this place. Looked good in wind during closing 69 at Erin Hills. T-5 at John Deere.

31. Emiliano Grillo: On paper he’s a great sleeper candidate. Hits it low, and ranks 33rd on Tour in driving accuracy, 29th in SGTTG and SGATG and 50th in GIR. However, he has gone T-43, MC, T-40 in his last three starts entering the Scottish. The silver lining is he has just two MCs since last year’s Players. T-12 a year ago at Troon.

32. Thomas Pieters: Has played just four times since T-4 at the Masters, missing two cuts, at the U.S. Open and Irish Open. But does have two top-14 finishes during that span. Ranks dead last (or No. 254) on the European Tour in driving accuracy. Still, at No. 29 in the world he’s one of game’s top young talents.

33. Russell Henley: Low ball flight, though he struggled in wind at U.S. Open, shooting a final-round 79. T-5 in last start, at Greenbrier. We all know he can putt (12th in SGP), but his ballstrikng stats are solid, too – 21st in GIR, 44th in SGTTG, 50th in driving accuracy. Also ranks 19th in bogey avoidance.

34. Rafa Cabrera-Bello: Won the Scottish to erase a MC at Irish Open from memory. Three T-4 finishes now in last seven starts worldwide. Hits it low and ranks fifth on European Tour in GIR, which is surprising considering he’s ranked 122nd in SGTTG on the PGA Tour. Also second in SGP. Has made four of five cuts in his British Open career.

35. Webb Simpson: Potential sleeper pick given his low ball flight and ballstriking ability. Ranks 14th in bogey avoidance, 21st in SGATG, 23rd in SGTTG and 34th in driving accuracy. T-14 in last start, at Greenbrier, and T-16 or better in five of last eight Tour starts.

36. Branden Grace: Owns one of the lowest ball flights on Tour, yet is just 137th in driving accuracy (and 237th in that category on the European Tour). Has slipped to 35th in world but does have three top-11 finishes in his last five worldwide starts. Was T-15 at Scottish. Shot 77 in final round of U.S. Open to finish T-50. Just 132nd on Tour in SGP, though 27th in GIR. Hard to see why he’s got such good odds.

37. Charley Hoffman: Followed eighth-place finish at U.S. Open with T-3 at Travelers. Ranks 129th in driving accuracy, but he’s a superb ballstriker (35th in SGTTG). Not a great track record at the British, but he was T-35 in 2007. T-39 at John Deere.

38. Brendan Steele: Has had some time to figure out that MC at Quicken Loans. T-14 at Travelers and T-13 at U.S. Open before that. Ranks 21st on Tour in SGTTG and bogey avoidance, 48th in GIR, 50th in SGATG and 57th in driving accuracy. Hasn’t made a cut in two previous British starts.

39. Tyrrell Hatton: The Tour’s leader in SGP also ranks 26th in SGATG and 34th in SGTTG. Eighth on the European Tour in GIR. But he’s cooled off of late, missing four straight cuts, including Scottish. Had missed first four cuts at British before T-5 last year at Royal Troon.

Ian Poulter (Getty Images)

40. Ian Poulter: No, I don’t have Poulter here solely because of his runner-up at Birkdale in 2008. He hits it low and straight (52nd on Tour in driving accuracy). He’s made six straight cuts, though nothing close to his T-2 at The Players. Ballstriking stats are good – sixth in SGATG and 11th in SGTTG. He’s also eighth in bogey avoidance. Putting is a question (173rd in SGP), but slower greens will be his friend. T-9 at Scottish.

41. Ross Fisher: Ranks 16th on European Tour in GIR and was T-39 at Birkdale in 2008. T-7 in France was his fourth top 10 in last seven starts worldwide. T-35 at Scottish.

42. Kyle Stanley: The stats are so good – No. 17 on Tour in driving accuracy, second in GIR, third in SGATG, fifth in SGTTG, 24th in bogey avoidance – and so are his recent results, as he has a win and three more top 8s in his last eight Tour starts. Made two of three career cuts at British. Might be running on fumes after playing John Deere (T-55).

43. Charl Schwartzel: Mixed results lately with two MCs and a WD in his last five starts, yet a T-2 and third in his last six. Ranks 10th on Tour in SGP and T-47 in SGATG. However, he’s 248th in driving accuracy. Sixth career finishes of T-22 or better at the British, including T-18 last year.

44. Charles Howell III: Not a good track record at the British with no top 25s in eight starts with four MCs. However, his stats suggest he should fare at least a little better at Birkdale. He has a low ball flight and ranks 12th in GIR, 36th in SGTTG and 42nd in SGATG. He’s also No. 1 on Tour in bogey avoidance. Two knocks against him: MC at Birkdale in 2008, and 169th in driving accuracy. Playing well, though, with no MCs in 2017 and a recent P-2 at Quicken Loans. T-17 at John Deere.

45. Andy Sullivan: Ranks 160th on European Tour in driving accuracy, which doesn’t help considering he’s not long, either. But can’t argue with his grit and recent results. T-9 at Scottish Open was his sixth top-20 finish in his last 10 events.

46. Martin Kaymer: Ranks 16th on Tour in driving accuracy and T-22 in SGP, and is 26th on the European Tour in GIR. That said, he has three MCs and nothing better than T-35 in his last six worldwide starts, and was 80th at Birkdale in 2008. He’s No. 142 on Tour in bogey avoidance.

47. Zach Johnson: Struggling this season, but he has momentum after his T-5 at the John Deere, one of his favorite events on Tour. Past Open champion who traditionally has the game to do well at this major.

48. Kevin Kisner: Hasn’t played much – or well – since going win, T-6 in May. T-44 at John Deere. Has gone 76th and MC in two British starts. Stats are good for Birkdale, though – 12th on Tour in driving accuracy, 13th in SGTTG, 14th in SGATG and 20th in SGP. Not great in wind, and we saw that with 76 in final round at Erin Hills.

49. Brian Harman: Hard to see him matching U.S. Open performance, but he does have a low ball flight and ranks 25th in bogey avoidance. Eighth on Tour in SGP, too, which makes up for his ballstriking at times. Rallied for a T-10 at the John Deere.

50. Lee Westwood: His window is closing to win a major, but it’s not completely shut. Boasts five top 10s in 22 British Open starts. Record at Birkdale, though, isn’t great – T-67 in 2008 and T-64 in 1998. Ranks 63rd on the European Tour in driving accuracy. Missed cut at Irish Open, but T-18 or better four times in last seven worldwide starts. Off-the-course distractions with reported split from ISM.

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