Daily Fantasy Course Primer: The Open Championship

For the first time since 1951, the Open Championship will be held in Northern Ireland, as Royal Portrush Golf Club plays host for the year's final major championship. Portrush was constructed in 1888, though the Dunluce Course that the field will face this week was added in 1929. This track routinely pops up near the top of (somewhat banal) "best courses in the world" lists, like this one from Golf Digest, and it was last seen as the venue for the 2012 Irish Open.

In 2017, the course's final two holes were scrapped and two newbies, the 7th and 8th, pushed the remainder of the course down the line. That means the closing stretch brings all kinds of drama, as the colossal 236-yard par 3 16th and diminutive 405-yard par 4 17th will have a say at the close come Sunday.

Portrush measures 7,317 yards to its par 71, a links-style track with beautifully designed views off the tee giving way to treacherous outcomes from wayward drives. Undulating fairways, penal rough, and changes in elevation (and, of course, wind) will make golfers second guess themselves almost every time they reach a new tee box. As is customary for Open Championships, pot bunkers dot the fairways and protect many greens. But at 62 bunkers, it is noteworthy that Royal Portrush has the fewest of any course in the Open rotation.

Weather and wind will play an important role in the tournament's outcome, but guessing at what that role will be and how it will play out is a fool's errand at this stage. Suffice it to say one wave will get a better draw than another, but no one will escape the weekend unscathed. Tee stacking is a viable strategy and, if multi-entering large field tournaments on daily fantasy sites, diversifying exposure across waves is an absolute must.

Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.

Course and Tournament Info

Course: Royal Portrush Golf Club
Par: 71
Distance: 7,317 yards
Tees/Fairways/Rough: Fescue and Bentgrass
Greens: Fescue and Bentgrass

With just one event in the past 68 or so years to go off, Royal Portrush does not offer a ton of history. The 2012 Irish Open is worthy of mention, but with the new holes and changes to the layout, it hardly seems like spending too much time on it. Likewise, prior Open performance does not offer much guidance, as those events were all held in Scotland and England.

Geography is not the only difference, though. The Open often features wide open, undulating courses with a litany of sand traps and rough that barely earns its name compared to what most of the players see week in and week out on the PGA Tour. Royal Portrush, on the other hand, is light on bunkers compared to prior Opens and has rough that will encourage many a contestant to club down off the tee unless they are feeling extremely aggressive.

The undulation is still a huge factor here, and these greens look to have more ups and downs than the usual Open courses. The greens are primed to be FAST as well, according to course manager Graeme Beatt.

The unknown makes course comparisons pretty tricky, but Pebble Beach comes to mind as a challenging coastal course that requires clubbing down off the tee and getting up and down from the thick stuff. Pebble also has some of the fastest greens on the PGA Tour.

Key Stats

These stats will be key to success in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Key Stats for the Open Championship at Royal Portrush
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Strokes Gained: Approach
Scrambling Gained
Lead-In Form

Both ball-striking stats will be important, as approach play is a major factor every week, and golfers can take a couple different tactics off the tee. Some may try to bomb it out and overpower the course, weighing the risk of finding the rough against having a shorter iron or wedge in your hand for the second shot. Others may deem the safer strategy is to keep it in the short stuff and leave their driver in the bag. In any event, the best second shots start with good position from the first shot, so whether they do it with accuracy or distance off the tee, gaining on the field will be essential. Total driving is another useful barometer, though that stat - which averages the golfer's distance and accuracy ranks - will apply only to PGA Tour pros and is not available for the Europeans.

Getting up and down when you miss the green will also be a key skill this week, as undulating greens lead to collection areas that will serve as a natural control since many golfers will find themselves in similar positions when trying to salvage a poor iron shot and save par. Scrambling gained shows how golfers compare to their foes but is available on Fantasy National in a large enough sample only for PGA Tour rounds.

So it seems pretty straightforward -- bomb it off the tee if you dare but keep it in play, nail the approach shot or recover beautifully, and then oh-by-the-way putt the lights out. No problem, right?

Which leads us to current form. Not often an aspect of the Course Primer, the "history" for this event is hard to pin down because it's held in different venues. But over the last five years each of the Open Championship winners has been a world-class player who arrived at the first tee with his game in great shape and recent results to prove it.

All five were ranked in the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and only one had failed to earn a win in worldwide competition in his five prior events. Zach Johnson was that golfer, but he was still in great form, though, with three top-six finishes in his lead-in events. It is also notable that each had a hiccup in that span except for last year's winner, Francesco Molinari, who came in about as hot as any player has been in the last few years.

YearWinnerOWGRLead-In Form
2018Francesco Molinari15thT2 John Deere ClassicWON Quicken Loans NationalT25 U.S. Open2nd at Italian OpenWON BMW PGA Championship
2017Jordan Spieth3rdWON Travelers ChampionshipT35 U.S. OpenT13 MemorialT2 DEAN & DELUCAMC AT&T Byron Nelson
2016Henrik Stenson6thT13 Scottish OpenWON BMW InternationalW/D U.S. OpenT4 Nordea MastersMC THE PLAYERS
2015Zach Johnson25thT3 John Deere Classic6th Travelers ChampionshipT72 U.S. Open5th AT&T Byron NelsonT19 Crowne Plaza Invitational
2014Rory McIlroy8thT14 Scottish OpenMC Irish OpenT23 U.S. OpenT15 MemorialWON BMW PGA Championship

Course History Studs

Rory McIlroy has finished in the top five in each of the last four times he's played the Open Championship, including a win in 2014. He owns the course record at Royal Portrush, though surely 16-year-old Rory likely couldn't fire a 60 in major championship conditions.

Graeme McDowell is another Northern Irishman who grew up nearby and basically considers Royal Portrush his home course. McDowell also gets points for winning at the 2010 U.S. Open, held at Pebble Beach, our primary course comp. For what it's worth, McIlroy and McDowell were in the mix at the 2012 Irish Open, ultimately finishing T10 and T16, respectively.

Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson have each won this event within the last five years, and over that span, neither has finished outside the top 40 at the Open.

Johnson is another former champ, and he has four top-25 finishes in the last five years, as do Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Phil Mickelson, and Justin Rose.

Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.