*pictured: Brandon Stone
What an awesome U.S. Open we had last weekend, with Dustin Johnson finally getting his 1st major (and well-deserved). Oakmont held up fantastically, and we had a ton of drama all week long. From our European Tour preview, we had some great performances out of Gregory Bourdy, Branden Grace, and Matthew Fitzpatrick. But now, we drift back to the other side of the pond for the BMW International Open.
This week, the field is decent, with headliners including Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, and Sergio Garcia. Those will definitely be the three highest priced (and probably highest owned) of the week, so we will have to dig deep on some scrub plays in order to roster them.
The course this week is the Golf Club Gut Larchenhof, in Pulheim, Germany. As with most European Tour events, this is Germany’s National Championship, so we can look to find some Germans (and even Austrians) who might want to perform best in front of the home crowds. Some names that come to mind are Bernd Wiesberger, Max Kieffer, and Marcel Siem. The course is a 7,229 yard par 71 course, with plenty of water hazards and fairly firm greens. I’m going to key in on ball-strikers again, but also take a look at putting stats, which seem to correlate with this event.
For this week, I’m going to focus on players in good current form and those who have played well here in the past. The tournament has been on a course rotation, and was last played at this venue in 2012 and 2014. Focus on those years for course history (the winners were Danny Willett and Fabrizio Zanotti). As we’ve said, the European Tour stats are notoriously unreliable, but from the digging I’ve done, here are the key stats of the week:
- Driving distance
- Stroke average
- Greens in regulation
- Putting Average
- Driving Accuracy
And now on to the picks! I’ve written up my favorite high-end choices this week, and listed my sneaky plays in the other pricing tiers since it’s definitely a stars and scrubs week on Tour:
Sergio Garcia ($11,900) – Along with Willett, Sergio is the class of this field, but I worry about his mindset after squandering another chance at that elusive major (he finished 5th). He’s statistically sound, except for the putting, so if he’s focused, Sergio will contend. In his two appearances here, he has a 29th and a 12th.
Danny Willett ($11,300) – Not only did Willett win at this venue in 2012, but he backed it up with an 8th in 2014. He ranks 7th in my statistical model this week, and is clearly the class of this field. After a frustrating week at the U.S. Open, I expect Willett to thrive at a “difficult” course by European Tour standards.
Joost Luiten ($10,100) – Luiten ranks 2nd in my statistical model this week, and pretty much does everything well. He’s had a bunch of top-5 finishes this season and is knocking on the door for that win. I think the fact that he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open last week means he is rested and extra motivated.
Rikard Karlberg ($9,600) – Speaking of knocking on the door for a win, Karlberg has four top-10 finishes in his last five events, including a runner-up finish two weeks ago. He’s not the most accurate driver, but he checks every other box I’m looking towards this week. Karlberg doesn’t have any course history, but he’s an excellent building block if you choose to fade Willett and Garcia.
Tyrell Hatton ($9,500) – Hatton again ranks 1st in my statistical model this week, which is a little scary since it burned me last time. But similar to Karlberg and Luiten, he’s had a bevy of top-10 finishes this season and is overdue for a win. In his appearance here in 2014, he finished 22nd.
The Value Mid-Tier:
Ross Fisher ($9,300) – Fisher finished 6th in his last outing on Tour, and finished 8th at this venue in 2012. He’s been very stead this season, making 10/11 cuts with three top-10s. He ranks 6th in my statistical model, and can be really dangerous if he gets the putter going this week. A cash game staple.
James Morrison ($8,300) – The young Englishman has two MC in two tries at this venue, but I’m focusing more on Morrison’s current form. He has two top-10s in his last few events, and seems to be another breakout star in the making. He’s not the longest hitter on Tour, but I think that’s less important this week than in weeks past. He’s very steady across the board, and I think Morrison can crack the top-10 again this week.
Brandon Stone ($7,800) – The play of the week. Stone is going to win, and soon. He ranks 3rd in my statistical model this week with checkmarks in every single category. He hits it far, he hits greens, and he makes putts. The lack of course history is a minor red flag, but Stone is still a steal at this price. He’s one of the few guys in this range that I think can legitimately win this week.
Fabrizio Zanotti ($7,800) – Zanotti also has elite course history with an 11th place finish in 2012 and a win in 2014. The win made him the first player from Paraguay to win on the European Tour. He’s made three of his past four cuts on Tour with two top-10s. Although it’s not a great course fit for Zanotti on paper, something fits his eye and I’m going to ride with him in many lineups.
Alex Cejka ($7,500) – Cejka has played primarily on the PGA Tour the past few seasons, and has been a really consistent cut-maker in the low salary range. At this venue, he’s made the cut each of the last two times including a 12th place finish in 2014. Not my favorite play of the week, but worth a few GPP sprinkles. The German will definitely be ready for his home event.
Richard Bland ($7,400) – Bland is a tough call this week, but at this price he’s worth a shot. Two MCs at this venue, but really great current (and consistent) form. He’s made his last seven cuts on tour with a couple of top-10s. Statistically, Bland checks four of five boxes, and is a great value play.
Sebastien Gros ($7,400) – Gros is a bomber who hits a ton of greens. His only weakness is accuracy, but I think he can manage this course well. He’s made six of his last seven cuts on tour with a couple of top-10s. No course history here, but he’s another player who seems to be very under priced for his caliber.
Marcel Siem ($7,300) – Similar to Cejka, Siem is a German who will be ready to perform in front of the home crowd. He’s had an up and down year, but Siem is a 4-time winner on the European Tour and finished 3rd in China a few weeks back. He’s made the cut in both appearances at this venue, including a 6th place finish in 2012.
Chris Hanson ($6,700) – If they keep under-pricing Hanson, I’ll keep playing him. He’s made his last four cuts on Tour, with a 10th, 25th, 34th, and 5th. Buy your stock while he’s still in this price range, because he’ll be in the $8k range in a month.
Chris Paisley ($5,900) – The Englishman is a bit of a flier here, but he has made his last two cuts on tour including a 10th place finish at the Lyoness Open. Paisley is an excellent putter who can keep the momentum going this week. He’s my favorite scrub play below $6,500 this week.
Good luck this week!