This is a great week for sports. Major League Baseball's All-Star Game features the best in the game fighting it out over homefield advantage in the World Series, the fever-pitch of football season is beginning to grow and golf's oldest championship is set to kickoff on the sport's more historic grounds. You can almost cut the majesty and circumstance with a knife. I did. Tastes a little like guava mixed with cinnamon. 

With as deep a field as The Open Championship carries, much like any other major, it is most fitting that this column exists to highlight the players that couldn't squeeze into the Power Rankings. As golf appears set on new horizons, there are plenty in the old and new school more than capable of victory despite poor past and recent performances.

So here's the deal though, as epic as this week is, I need some challengers. For the last two weeks, I've set up a measly $2 league over at GoDraft.com for you to come take my money and, for two weeks, it hasn't filled. Some of you took my money in other games and you're fortunate its all digitally paid-out. I like to keep my funds in pennies. I like the way they smell. Jump in and take me down. If you can't, I promise I'll do absolutely nothing to make up for it.

My Power Rankings draw on statistics only, but Risk and Reward draws more on gut feel and intuition about players who missed my Top 15. In this column, you'll find "Lay-Up", "Going For It", and "Hazard". Look for more subjective analysis here. Lay-Up may contain players who, barring a Great Flood, will bank you some points. Going For It is where I'll have players that may have missed the Power Rankings or who I feel present an excellent opportunity to pick up a win, but carry some considerable risk. Lastly, Hazards, where I often find myself on any given Sunday, should be avoided. 

Lay-Up


Ian Poulter - TA: 38.13, CHG: (-13.2) - I'm inviting pitchforks and torches with this one, but I'll take that risk. Up until a missed cut last week at the Scottish Open, Poults hadn't dropped one since Pebble Beach in February. In that stretch, he accumulated three Top 5s, a T6 at The Masters, and four additional Top 30s. While he's been somewhat hit-or-miss at The Open, he's got a T3 and a T9 in his last three tries. Statistically, he's way up in just about every meaningful category versus last year.

Tiger Woods - TA: 45.88, CHG: (-13.6) - Wow, its getting warm in here. If those torches move any closer, my homeowner's insurance might start sweating. Back at The Masters, Tiger, much to the chagrin of haters everywhere, parachuted in and still managed a T17. He was even distantly in contention after his third round. The similarity between such disparate courses? Tiger loves Augusta and loves St. Andrews even more. In his three Open Championships at the course, he's won twice and finished T23 in 2010 in spite of his personal life troubles that year. 

Branden Grace - TA: 43.13, CHG: (-8.2) - I botched the U.S. Open by missing him completely but I won't make that mistake this time. Grace went into Chambers Bay red-hot and took home a fourth place finish. This time, he's only got a T17 at the Scottish Open to show off, but don't let that fool you. At just 27 years of age, this South African has a long, steady career ahead of him.

Going-For-It


Ben Martin - TA: 42.5, CHG: (-2.6) - Ben Martin might be one of the most underrated players on TOUR. He's already snagged a career victory and yet most probably don't know he's also ranked 57th in the world. There's a lot to like about his game, but given modern golf's propensity to favor bombers, Martin is more Zach Johnson than Dustin Johnson. Martin finished 26th last year in the 143rd Open Championship, his best finish in a major, and is coming off a T17 at the Scottish Open.

Graeme McDowell - TA: 54.13, CHG: (+5.6) - There's no way a player as talented as Graeme McDowell stays this bad for this long. This is the first time since 2008 that McDowell has been outside the top 51 players in the world, currently sitting in 55th. For the first time since a T9 in Dubai, he flashed signs of life at the Scottish Open, posting a T31 after three straight missed cuts. The value should be there, so he might be worth a flyer.

Charl Schwartzel - TA: 52.13, CHG: (+8.2) - The best golfer in the world at simultaneously shatters fantasy players' hopes and dreams week in and week out. Let's call it like it is, Schwartzel has been bad this year. Then, out of nowhere, he clocks a T7 at Chambers Bay and a T10 at the ISPS Handa. What perfect timing to entice players as he heads into a tournament where his recent history includes a T7 in 2014 and a T15 in 2013. Literally, a coin-toss with bones and a drop-dead gorgeous golf swing.

Hazard


Ernie Els - TA: 60.38, CHG: (-6.8) - Sang his swan song three years ago with he snatched his fourth major victory at The Open. There used to be a time when Ernie Els and The Claret Jug were almost synonymous. Now, at 47 years old, The Big Easy appears to be ready for the greener pastures of the Champions Tour. He might make the cut, but I wouldn't bank on a finish anywhere near the top.

Stephen Gallacher - TA: 64.63, CHG: (-12.4) - He might be essentially playing a home game. Gallacher has demonstrated, however, little in the way of life since a third place finish in Dubai in February. Despite a decent track record at the links which characterize The Open, Gallacher stumbles in having missed the cut at the Scottish Open - his third MC in three starts.

Koumei Oda - TA: 42.25, CHG: (+2) - Koumei Oda's recent finishes have been solid, but given that they come from very weak fields, his inability to win demonstrates that he lacks the finishing skills to succeed here. Many will see back-to-back sixth place finishes and jump all over him. Don't. Regardless of the salary or strategy behind the pick, I'm sure there are players with better pedigree and equal value.

Normally, I'd list here who I've started this week in my non-money games, something I'll likely start doing again soon. Since I'm continuing my challenge to all of you this week and you're going to be taking my money, I'll leave my even-shorter list hidden. Come find me over at GoDraft.com if you must know come Thursday morning.  


Thanks for Reading!
Kyle Donovan
@RiskRewardGolf