Fantasy Golf Preview - AT&T Byron Nelson and Irish Open

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Sometimes it pays to back the favourite, as Jason Day proved in sensational fashion at the Players Championship.

The Australian justified his top billing and £15m price tag with his second wire-to-wire victory this season, becoming only the fourth man since 1970 to achieve such a feat. The 28-year-old also led from start to finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and has now claimed seven titles in the last 10 months, including a Major and two FedEx Cup playoff events. If he isn’t in your team right now, he should be.

Rory McIlroy once again fell short, despite a stunning 64 on Friday, and was left to lament more putting woes over the weekend.  The Irishman still finished inside the top 15 mind you, which is more than can be said of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Masters champion Danny Willett, who all missed the cut. 

Fantasy managers were rewarded for backing the in-form American Kevin Chappell, who secured his place at the US Open and Open Championship after recording his second runner-up finish this year. Fellow bargain buys Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Colt Knost and Ken Duke rounded out the top six and in doing so, delivered a handsome return for fantasy teams.

Away from the PGA Tour, Jeunghun Wang made it two wins in a week on the European Tour after capitalising on a late collapse from Siddikur Rahman to win the Mauritius Open. The Japanese overturned a three-shot deficit over the last three holes to make a laughing stock of his £6m price tag.

Last week’s top-tip Nicolas Colsaerts finished a season-best T3, while South African Brandon Stone posted another top 10 – his third in four starts. The duo now travel to the Irish Open at the K Club this week, where Rory McIlroy will be juggling hosting and playing duties for the first time. The world number three headlines a field which features Martin Kaymer and the English quartet of Willett, Andy Sullivan, Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

However, top-ranked Englishman Justin Rose is absent from both the PGA and European Tour this week, as are the pricey trio of Day, Fowler and Bubba Watson. This means the spotlight falls on Spieth at the AT&T Byron Nelson, where Steven Bowditch is the defending champion.

The world number two returns to his hometown event, still seeking his first victory in the state of Texas, and is one of just 10 players ranked inside the world’s top 30 who will be competing at the TPC Four Seasons Resort. Other big names include Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Zach Johnson.

Top-five fantasy picks this week...

Dustin Johnson (£14.5m) – AT&T Byron Nelson

The big-hitting American’s resume at the TPC Four sSeasons is mightily impressive and automatically makes him a must pick in the eyes of the TG Tipster. Since 2009, he’s never finished outside the top-20 at the AT&T Byron Nelson and has notched top 10s in each of his last two appearances. He is entering in good form, too, and had five successive top 15s before finishing T28 at TPC Sawgrass – his best ever result at the Players Championship. There may be cheaper options available, but the statistics make him hard to ignore.    

Ryan Palmer (£9m) – AT&T Byron Nelson

Another American who is hitting his stride at just the right time with three majors around the corner. The 39-year-old has made 12 consecutive cuts, including a T4 and T23 in his last two events. A local favourite at TPC, the Texan has recorded a pair of top 10s and a solo second at the AT&T Byron Nelson since 2011. One to watch.

Bryce Molder (£5.5m) – AT&T Byron Nelson

Molder has bounced back from a wretched start to the calendar year and is riding a big wave after logging three top 15s in his last four starts. He may be without a victory on the PGA Tour since 2011, but he’s arguably playing some of the best golf of his career right now. His putting is perhaps his biggest asset and in his last four tournaments, he’s ranked inside the top 25 in strokes gained: putting. His prowess with the flat-stick could be his biggest weapon as the 156-strong field bid to navigate the notoriously tricky greens at TPC Four Seasons.     

Shane Lowry (£13m) – Irish Open

The reigning WGC Bridgestone Invitational champion has had a quiet start to 2016, but he’s got history and a home crowd on his side at the Irish Open this week. The 28-year-old memorably earned his maiden European Tour victory while still an amateur at County Louth in 2009, defeating Robert Rock in a play-off. Now plying his trade on the PGA Tour, Lowry was in the final group alongside Jason Day at the Players Championship on Saturday, before a third-round 78 plummeted him down the leaderboard. A T16 was still a step in the right direction after missing two cuts since the start of April and he showed enough in his opening two rounds to suggest he could rekindle his love affair with links golf this week.

Andy Sullivan (£12.5m) – Irish Open

The diminutive Englishman turns 29 on Thursday and will be hoping to celebrate with a fourth victory since the start of 2015. Form wise, he looks in pretty good shape. Failure to make the weekend at TPC Sawgrass is tempered by five top 20s in his last six events on the European Tour. Last year, he finished T6 at the Irish Open and is starting to forge a reputation for performing strongly on links courses.