Sobel: In Sneaky-Good Fields, Fleetwood and Varner Could Triumph This Week
Mark Konezny, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Harold Varner III
Maybe your fantasy football squad is 0-3 and you need a weekend away from games. Maybe your college isn’t named Alabama or Clemson. Maybe your favorite baseball team was out of the pennant race two months ago. Or maybe you’re just a diehard golf nut and want to follow your action on the links.
Whatever the case, the last week in September isn’t usually considered a great one for golf – well, in non-Ryder Cup years, at least – but this should be a sneaky fun two-fer, even for the casual observers out there.
On the PGA Tour, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama and Bryson DeChambeau headline the Safeway Open, while the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship boasts the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry.
Let’s get right to the picks for what should be an entertaining week, going back and forth between each of the big events.
All odds below as of Tuesday morning, for updated odds check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
One player to win the tournament.
Safeway: Harold Varner III (66-1)
I looked at the top names in this field and while I could find reasons each one might win, I could also find reasons why they wouldn’t. Namely, the biggest reason to fade the chalk is that elite players haven’t prevailed here lately.
There are plenty of intriguing names further down the board, but HV3 intrigues me the most, with a T-19 in his first start this season and two top-15s in his last three starts at this tourney. Even though he wilted a few times when in serious contention last season, those experiences should have him ready to finally reach the PGA Tour winner’s circle. He’s certainly capable of making that leap.
Dunhill: Tommy Fleetwood (18-1)
In last week’s preview, I also picked Fleetwood to win. Spoiler alert: He didn’t. Instead of being wrong, I’d like to think I was just ahead of the curve. I’m picking him again here for the same reason – he’s had a very good year, but remains hungry for that elusive win – coupled with the fact that he owns two-runner-up finishes, two other top-fives and has only been outside the top-25 once at this tournament in the last eight years.
On the verge of victory this year and on the verge of victory in this event, it could be the perfect convergence of trends.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Safeway: Bronson Burgoon (60-1)
Betcha didn’t expect to see this name up here, huh? If you’re playing a season-long OAD pool, there’s no reason to jump at using up a stud in the third week. Burgoon has finished 19th or better in each of his last four starts – two on the PGA Tour and two in the Korn Ferry Finals, including a T-6 last week.
A college star who might be maturing into a solid pro right now, he could be a nice play in these types of formats.
Dunhill: Robert MacIntyre (50-1)
A burgeoning star with a ton of game, Bobby Mac is a worthy selection anywhere right now, but I especially like the Scotsman on the familiarity of links courses, of which he’ll see three this week in Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St. Andrews.
He owns a trio of runner-up finishes in his last dozen European Tour starts, but as Oliver Wilson and Tyrrell Hatton have each shown in the past half-decade, a star-studded Dunhill field doesn’t preclude a first-time champion.
One player to finish top-five.
Safeway: Patrick Cantlay (+240 for top-five)
Look, there’s fading the chalk, then there’s being silly. Let’s not completely forget about the big names here. Thomas is the favorite for good reason, however Cantlay might offer more consistency.
The world’s seventh-ranked player cashed five top-five tickets during the 2018-19 season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he starts off this campaign with another one.
Dunhill: Erik Van Rooyen (+800 for top-five)
Not all links-lovers are of the Scottish variety. Van Rooyen is a South African, but has shown a proficiency on these coastal tracks, as proven by finishes of T-14 and T-20 in the two-week run at the Scottish Open and Open Championship earlier this summer.
With top-20 finishes in each of his last six events, he’s similarly a smart choice for any DFS lineup.
One player to finish top-10.
Safeway: Tom Hoge (+750 for top-10)
A random pick out of nowhere? Not so fast, my friends. Hoge owns two top-10s in his last four PGA Tour starts (and one in the KF Finals, too). He’s hardly a world-beater, but when he plays well, he plays really well.
Finishes of T-17 and T-37 over the last two years at this event should similarly inspire some confidence. At this price, and with precedence, he’s worth a wager.
Dunhill: Sam Horsfield (+900 for top-10)
I’ve mentioned Horsfield’s name in a few different sections of previous previews, because I really believe he’s on the brink of a breakthrough performance. He’s finished 31-49-14-43-10-3 over the last six weeks. Those might sound like lottery numbers, but the real lottery will come when – not if – he finally wins.
Much as I wrote for MacIntyre, this wouldn’t be a shocking setting for his first title.
One player to finish top-20.
Safeway: Lanto Griffin (+270 for top-20)
Great name, good form. After spending a quality year on the Korn Ferry circuit, Griffin has returned to the PGA Tour nicely so far, finishing 13th and T-11 in his first two starts.
For a guy who’s lost his card before, he knows what an impact these fall events can make on his overall status 11 months from now. Expect him to keep that foot pressed to the gas pedal this week.
Dunhill: Calum Hill (+950 for top-20)
After playing collegiately in the U.S., the native Scotsman returned home and nearly immediately started lighting the developmental Challenge Tour ablaze. He owns three wins in the past 13 months, effectively clinching his European Tour status for next season.
Now playing with house money, don’t be surprised if the 24-year-old puts a scare into some of the big names and creeps onto the leaderboard this weekend.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
Safeway: Brendan Steele (DK $7,400; FD $9,100)
Usually the bingo squares are players like, well, the guy I’ve listed from the Dunhill just below. You know, elite players who own a high floor. Steele is a lower-priced option, but a horse for this course, having won here in back-to-back trips in 2017 and ’18. Coming off a disappointing campaign, he’s motivated to put that behind him and start piling up some better results.
At less than the average player salary on both DK and FD, he’s a safe play who won’t break the bank.
Dunhill: Jon Rahm (DK $11,600)
Hey, if it’s working, let’s not mess with success. I listed Rahm in this section last week, based on the fact that he hadn’t finished lower than 13th in his last eight starts.
Well, make it nine now. Fresh off last week’s runner-up, Rahm has solidified himself even more as a safe DFS option. You’ll have to pay up to get him, but he’s proven he’s worth the price.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Safeway: Beau Hossler (DK $6,800; FD $7,900)
I like Hossler for a variety of plays this week – I’d bet him up to top-10 – but I most like him at DFS prices which don’t do justice to his wealth of talents.
Simply put, he’s a better player than he’s being given credit for, likely due to his recent trip to the KF Finals to regain his PGA Tour card. Don’t be scared off, though. It’ll be a long time before he loses those playing privileges again.
Dunhill: Joakim Lagergren (DK $7,300)
Who?? Trust me: This guy wasn’t on my radar, either – until I did some digging and found some impressive numbers. In his last five starts, Lagergren owns four finishes of 24th or better.
After struggling early this year with missed cuts in his first seven appearances, the Swede seems to have righted the ship and figured some things out. I wouldn’t go as far as betting on him outright, but he’s a nice low-cost lineup filler.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Safeway: Chez Reavie (+4500)
Last season, Reavie ranked fourth on the PGA Tour with an opening-round scoring average of 68.77, which beat his average of any other round by nearly a half-stroke.
The truth is, I like Reavie as a full-tourney play this week, as well, but I especially like him to get off to a fast start with another low one right off the bat.
No, I’m not passing on this category; I’m just taking the smart approach. As of the time I’m writing this preview, tee times haven’t yet been released for the tournament.
That’s usually not a monumental factor, but it can be for a tourney played on three courses with three traditionally different scoring averages. Carnoustie almost always plays as the toughest track, followed by Kingsbarns, with the gradually unintimidating Old Course yielding the lowest scores. A few names I’d seek in particular, if they’re playing the opening round at the latter track: Matt Wallace, Matthias Schwab and Adri Arnaus.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Safeway: Cameron Tringale
I’ve mentioned it plenty of times in this column, but my favorite matchup bets are the ones which cash Friday afternoon, when my guy makes the cut and his opponent misses it.
Tringale offers a nice possibility of at least one side of that, having reached the weekend in nine of his last 10 starts. He’s similarly made the cut in four of his last five at this event, yet another positive sign.
Dunhill: Chris Wood
Another trick to playing matchups is to identify a player who struggled recently, but has started performing better, while the markets continue to place him against inferior competition.
Consider Wood one of these players. After a brutal start to the year when he fought through injuries and didn’t cash a paycheck until the last weekend of August, he’s now reached the weekend in four straight, offering some upside against a player whose struggles haven’t similarly been overcome yet.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Safeway: Phil Mickelson (+5000)
I think some bettors and DFS players are going to be wooed by the big name or the Phireside Chats or – most likely – the strong results at this tournament. Mickelson has finished 17-3-8 in his last three starts here, which could draw some interest. What he hasn’t done, though, is show any semblance of any form in recent months.
Since winning in February, his T-18 at the Masters remains his lone top-30 finish. I do think Lefty still has some good golf left in the tank as he closes in on 50 years old, but I don’t expect it to happen this week.
Dunhill: Tyrrell Hatton (+2800)
That’s right – I’m fading the same Hatton who won this event in 2016 and ’17, then nearly clinched a threepeat last year, finished in second place. In this instance, I’m looking at form over course history and Hatton hasn’t shown much lately.
Granted, his last three results of MC-59-43 occurred in U.S.-based events, and granted, he finished T-14 and T-6 in his last two Euro Tour starts, both on links courses, but with so many bettors riding the Hatton-wagon this week, I’m admittedly making the potentially irresponsible decision to avoid chasing that solid record.