Jordan Spieth – This comes as no surprise but Spieth is going to be the favorite at The Open this week, and is easily my top play for it. He is expensive and going to be very highly owned, but with the way he has been playing he should be more than worth it. He is having an insane season making 14 of 16 cuts, with 11 top 10’s, 1 3rd place finish, 3 2nd place finishes, and 4 1st place finishes. I mean he has finished in the top 3 in ½ of his starts which is incredible. He hasn’t fared all that well at The Open missing the cut the first year, getting 44th his second year, and getting 36th last year. That being said, his game has obviously come a long way in the last couple years, and I think it meshes perfect for St. Andrews. As we know now, Spieth is a lethal putter, and from what I have heard, the rough is not as bad as it usually is at St. Andrews which gives Jordan even more of an advantage. If there is one thing that Spieth isn’t great at, it is driving the ball. He averages 291.0 yards per drive which is 76th on the tour, and only hits the fairway 63.06% of the time which is 85th on the tour. Again with the roughs not being as thick as normal, this should provide Spieth plenty of relief even if he does miss the fairway. Now he does so much well like gaining 2.283 strokes per round via putting and tee to green which is top on the tour, he averages 4.52 birdies per round which is 2nd on tour, and averages 27.72 putts per round which is the best on tour. Putting as always is so important to make those birdies or pars and is the biggest reason why he keeps winning. Finally he is 30th in sand save % 58.42% which is important with The Open being known for their deep bunkers. I expect another high finish for Spieth and won’t be surprised if he wins his 3rd major this week.
Rickie Fowler – Fowler had a really bad U.S. Open, but I think that is going to be a blessing in disguise for this weekend. He is coming off of a win last weekend at the Scottish Open, and is going to be under owned with his performance at Chambers Bay. He has also had a bit of a disappointing season overall only making 10/13 cuts with 5 top 25’s, 3 top 10’s, 1 3rd place finish, and 1 victory. This is coming off of a season where he was top 5 in all four majors, and had 10 top 10 finishes overall. He is another guy that is really a consistent player, and other than 1 bad round at the U.S. Open is usually very good. With a very average year, come very average stats, but I won’t let a lot of them worry me. He can hit the ball relatively long at 294.8 yards which is 46th on tour, but only hits the fairway 62.72% of the time which is 89th on tour. He averages 3.81 birdies per round which is 46th on tour and saves his sand shots 57.50% of the time which is 37th on the tour. His approach game is about average being great from 75-100 yards (4th on tour), but from 175-200 yards he is 197th on tour. What has really let him down has been his putting though. He has lost .067 shots per round via putting which is 126th on tour, and while he is averaging 28.59 putts per round which is 43rd on tour, he is only 1 putting 39.02% of the time which is 106th overall. Last year he was 12th on tour in 1 putt% at 42.22 and was 37th on the tour in strokes gained via putting at .287 shots per round. Now this might now seem like a big difference, but little things like these add up over the course of a round. I really love Fowler as a GPP pick this weekend, and while neither of my studs are European, they both have games that I think will transfer over well.
Ian Poulter – With St. Andrews being in Scotland, I had to make sure to have a British man as he will be one of the home town favorites. Poulter is one of those players that always seems to step up in the big stages with 8 top 10 finishes in majors, and whenever the Ryder Cup is going he seems to play great as well. Poulter has played St. Andrews three times finishing in 64th in 2000, getting 11th in 2005, and got 60th in 2010. Now these results are certainly not ideal, but he has made the cut all three times, and he obviously has a lot of experience there that can only help. On the PGA tour this year, Poulter has made 11/12 cuts with 8 top 25’s, 4 top 10’s, and 1 3rd place finish. There isn’t anything very flash with these finishes, but he has been very consistent which is important, and again has played on the big stage before which will certainly help him. Poulter does a lot of things pretty well which explains why he has made 11/12 cuts this year. He also does not drive the ball very long at 285.2 yards which is 129th on the PGA, but he does hit 64.63% of the fairways which is 58th. He gains 1.062 shots per round via putting and tee to green which is 18th which has led to him to 3.98 birdies per round (24th best), and a scoring average of 69.947 shots per round (13th overall). A few other things I like are his sand saving ability (57.95% which is 32nd on tour), his scrambling from the rough (69.86% which is 4th on the tour), and he has the 13th best putting average at 1.563. Consistency is the theme here, and Poulter can provide a very high finish as he has the ability to put together 4 good rounds of golf.
Francesco Molinari – For most tournaments I don’t love Molinari, but being on a European Course, he definitely gets a bump and has finished 15th and 9th the last two years at the Open. He did miss the cut here at St. Andrews in 2010, but for a mid-level guy, I can very well see him contending well into the weekend. Molinari who plays a bit on the European Tour, has made 9 of 12 cuts on the PGA tour this year with 5 top 25’s, 2 top 10’s and 1 3rd place finish. These aren’t outstanding numbers, but again he has more success on European style courses. Getting to some statistics, I am hearing that the long drivers who can outhit the bunkers have an advantage. While that may be true, if you can drive the ball accurately you will be just fine and that is exactly what Molinari does. He only drives the ball an average of 278.8 yards (170th best), but he hits the fairway an incredible 78.52% of the time which is the best on tour, which has led to a great Greens In Regulation % of 72.49 which is the 2nd best on the tour. Now he does only average 3.34 birdies per round which is 148th best, but if he can get hot, he certainly gives himself a lot of chances. He is also great at approach shots from 50-200 yards being the best from 50-125 yards and being very high in some other categories. His putting is what has let him down which does worry me a little this weekend. He averages 29.93 putts per round which is 180th and only 1 putts 34.69% of the time which is 190th. This explains why he doesn’t make very many birdies, but if the putter can get hot, the GIR% says he gets a lot of birdie chances. Molinari is another European I like this weekend, and another guy I expect to be competing well into the weekend.
Kevin Kisner – I wanted to go with Graham McDowell here as he has had some success at St. Andrews, but Kisner has been really hot lately which makes up for the fact that he has never played here before. Kisner has made 17 of 23 cuts on the year, but had made his last 9 cuts with 4 top 5 finishes in that time frame as well. This is what I am talking about when it comes to being on a hot streak, and while he hasn’t pulled one out yet, he has been right there. There are some things I really like about Kisner, and there are some things that bug me. A few things that bug me are his driving distance at 285.5 yards which is 126th, his 3.64 birdies per round which is only 80th overall, and his one putt% being 39.38 which is 92 on the PGA. There are a lot of things that he does well which is why I like him for a pretty affordable price range this weekend. While he may not hit the ball long, he hits the fairway 69.93% which is 16th overall. He gains .846 strokes per round overall which is 31st on the tour, which has helped him to a 70.174 scoring average (22nd). Finally, we get to the putting which is obviously very crucial. While he doesn’t one putt very often, he doesn’t three putt very often (1.81% of the time which is 8th on the tour), which has helped him only average 28.60 putts per round which is 44th on tour. The thing is though recently his stats have been much better so these numbers have just been getting lower and lower. All in all Kisner is a risky pick because he has never played here, but not that risky with the way he has been playing lately.
Robert Streb – Another American on the list worries me a bit, but much like Mr. Kisner, Streb has been playing way too well to ignore at his price point this weekend. He has made 18/23 cuts including his last 7, with 2 top 5’s and 5 top 20’s in that time frame. What he did a couple weeks ago at the Greenbrier a couple weeks ago drilling all of those putts with a sand wedge is one of the greatest things that I have ever seen. Again the fact that he hasn’t played here before in a big tournament does worry me a bit, but sometimes you just have to roll with the hot hand. He has 11 top 25’s on the year with 7 top 10’s a win and a 2nd place finish so he knows how to get to the top of the leaderboard. There is a lot that Streb does well also that gives me a lot of confidence in him as well. First, unlike most of the other guys on this list, he can drive the ball pretty long at 295 yards per drive which is 44th, but doesn’t do so accurately only hitting the fairway 60.68% of the time which is 44%. He is 15th in GIR% at 69.99 which has hurt his putting numbers a bit because he is 2 putting a lot for par. He gains the 15th most strokes at 1.098 strokes per round and averages 3.85 birdies per round which is 35th best. With all of these numbers, I honestly think that he is a bit of a steal for his price. He averages 29.22 putts per round which is 128th on the tour but only 3 putts 2.24% of the time which is 33rd on the tour. This tells me he has a lot of long birdie putts that are being converted to pars and an occasional birdie. I do think that Streb will be one of the more highly owned guys at this price range, but I have a lot of confidence in him making it to the weekend.
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