Fantasy Golf Preview – Texas Open and Shenzhen International


Another week and another victory for an English underdog. Andrew Johnston followed in the footsteps of Danny Willett by upstaging the higher-ranked Sergio Garcia and co to claim his maiden European Tour title at the Spanish Open.

The new world number 125, priced at just £5.5m, capitalised on a disastrous start from overnight leader Michael Lorenzo-Vera to seal a one-shot victory over Dutchman Joost Luiten at Valderrama. James Morrison put up a stern defence of his title to finish tied fourth – one shot clear of fellow compatriot Ross Fisher. Other Ryder Cup hopefuls Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Soren Kjeldsen also featured in the top 10, which included five players priced at £7.5m or below.

Elsewhere, British duo Luke Donald and Russell Knox finally found some form across the pond and finished inside the top 20 on the PGA Tour for the first time this season at the RBC Heritage. The duo tied for second behind South African Branden Grace, who delivered maximum points for fantasy managers at a cost of £14.5m. World number one Jason Day blew his chances of a third victory this season with a round of 79 on Saturday and will be recharging his batteries this week after playing in four tournaments since the start of March.

The Australian is slated to appear at the Zurich Classic next week, where Jordan Spieth and defending champion Justin Rose are also expected to return. In the meantime, the spotlight now falls on the American quartet of Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson to headline the Texas Open this week. Jimmy Walker also returns as defending champion and is part of a roster that includes nine of the top 30 players in the world rankings.

On the European Tour, the action shifts across to China where two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson tops the bill at the Shenzhen International. The in-form American will be battling it out against defending champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat and a strong Asian contingent, which includes fellow major champion Y.E. Yang and home favourite Li Hao Tong.

Top-five fantasy picks this week…

Charley Hoffman

A bargain at £10m, the American has recovered from a slow start to the season and is beginning to establish himself as ‘Mr Consistent’ on the PGA Tour. He has yet to miss a cut since the first tournament of the calendar year, and he returns to the TPC San Antonio course where he has recorded six top-15 finishes in as many appearances. He has come close before at the Texas Open – finishing runner-up and tied third in 2011 and 2013 respectively – and could break into the world’s top 50 with another strong showing. He was tied for second at the RBC Heritage after three rounds and although his challenge faded on Sunday, his game appears in good shape to take on a course which naturally suits his eye.

Zach Johnson

The two-time Major champion underperformed at the Masters, but he was back in contention at the RBC Heritage until a five-over par final round left him tied for 33th. Whether his form this season justifies paying £13.5m is open to debate, but it’s worth noting that he recorded back-to-back victories at the Texas Open when it was held at La Cantera in 2008 and 2009. The TPC San Antonio course may test his long game more, but he’s still finished tied sixth and tied 20th in the last two years.

Matt Kuchar

The likeable American is another player who knows his way around the TPC San Antonio course. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his three starts in Texas and carries a lot of momentum into this week after finishing tied 9th at the RBC Heritage. A missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been sandwiched by six top-30 finishes and at £12.5m, he’s already proving a popular choice among fantasy managers.

Bubba Watson

If you are looking to juggle your top order, it makes sense to dispense with the services of either Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler – all of whom are absent from the Tour this week – and draft in a like-for-like replacement. Watson fits the bill perfectly and is the overwhelming favourite in China to notch his second title this year. He’s by far the standout name in a field which contains just two other players inside the world’s top 50 and looks a good bet to record his fifth top-15 finish in his last eight starts.

Joost Luiten

The Dutchman looks a snip at £8.5m and came close to ending a two-year winless streak with a runner-up finish at the Spanish Open. He’s now finished inside the top 15 six times in his last seven outings and stands a great chance of extending that run in China. The fact he’s never played at the Shenzhen Genzon Golf Club could count against him, but it’s still hard to overlook one of the most in-form men on the European Tour right now.  

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