Fantasy Golf Preview – Zurich Classic of New Orleans and China Open


It has taken a few dodgy predictions granted, but one of our top tips from last week – Charley Hoffman – secured maximum points for fantasy managers with a dramatic one-shot victory at the Texas Open.

The new world number 34 rolled in a birdie putt on the last to avoid a play-off with Patrick Reed and leave yours truly feeling very smug last night. Reed had the consolation of finishing a solo second in his hometown of Texas – his second runner-up finish of the season. He’s also had six other top-10s but remains winless since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions 16 months ago.

Meanwhile, third-round leader Ricky Barnes is still chasing his first PGA Tour victory after finishing in a tie for fourth alongside Kevin Chappell, Billy Horschel, Ryan Palmer and Martin Piller. Luke Donald, who came joint second at the RBC Heritage last week, also endured a disappointing Sunday and closed with a disappointing two-over par 74 to drop just outside the top-10.

On the European Tour, there was similar frustration for fellow Englishman Lee Slattery who fell just short at the rain-delayed Shenzhen International in China. The 37-year-old was joint overnight leader alongside Frenchman Alex Levy and Soomin Lee, but slipped down the leaderboard on Monday morning as Lee emerged from the group to claim his first European Tour title in just six starts. Joost Luiten – our tip from last week – finished two shots off the pace alongside Brandon Stone in a tie for second, with Levy and Slattery a shot further back.

The action stays in China this week as the national open takes centre stage on the European Tour. World number four Bubba Watson has returned home after his T7 at the Shenzhen International, so the spotlight falls on a large Asian contingent, led by Kiradech Aphibarnrat, looking to gain some much-needed momentum ahead of the Players Championship next month. Thirteen of the top 100 players in the world, including Bernd Wiesberger and Victor Dubuisson, will also be teeing it up at the China Open, where top-ranked Chinese golfer Wu Ashun will be looking to defend his title.

Meanwhile, world number one Jason Day returns to action on the PGA Tour this week as he looks to bounce back from a difficult weekend at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago. The Australian is the standout draw at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he shared the 54-hole lead last year, and will be joined by defending champion Justin Rose and world number five Rickie Fowler. Outside of the world’s top 10, South African Branden Grace will be making his debut in New Orleans and stands a good chance of notching his maiden PGA Tour win with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy still absent.

Top-five fantasy picks this week…

JB Holmes (Zurich Classic)

Don’t be put off by his £13m fee. The big-hitting American has recently catapulted himself ahead of Patrick Reed for the final automatic Ryder Cup place and flew under the radar at Augusta to finish joint fourth. A T13 in San Antonio on Sunday was the sixth time he has finished inside the top 15 in his last seven stroke play events.

Billy Horschel (Zurich Classic)

Priced at just £10.5m, Horschel has continued his ascent up the world rankings in recent weeks and appears to be recapturing the form that brought him the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup in 2014. The world number 44 has yet to miss a cut since failing to make the final round at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, and has recorded six top-25 finishes in his past 10 starts. He triumphed in New Orleans three years ago and will fancy his chances again with several big names still recuperating ahead of the Players Championship.

Jason Dufner (Zurich Classic)

The 2013 U.S. PGA Champion represents a bit of risk on current form, but he always seems to play well at TPC Louisiana and actually won the event four years ago. Between 2009 and 2012, the world number 66 reeled off four consecutive top 10’s, including a third and fifth place finish. The Zurich Classic has been off his schedule since 2013 but he returns this week desperately seeking some form after finishing outside the top-35 in his three starts. History suggests he stands a very good chance of doing so and at £8.5m, it’s probably worth sticking him in your side.

Soomin Lee (China Open) 

The 22-year-old has more than validated his £6.5m price-tag and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest his wire-to-wire victory at the Shenzhen International will be anything but a flash in the pan. He offered a glimpse into his potential on the Asian Tour last year, posting two top-three finishes at the Bangladesh Open and Hong Kong Open. Crucially, he has recovered from letting a three-shot lead slip at the Maybank Championship Malaysia in February and now sits inside the Top 10 in the Race to Dubai. Ignore him at your peril.

Alex Levy (China Open)

The 26-year-old has recovered from a slow start to the season and put in another impressive showing at the Shenzhen International. His challenge may have wavered down the closing stretch, but he still delivered a handsome return for fantasy owners at a cost of £6.5m. The Frenchman has now finished inside the top 15 in his last four starts and will be a strong contender at a tournament which brought him his maiden European Tour title in 2014.   

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