Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Andalucia

Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Andalucia

Fantasy Preview and Picks for LIV Golf Andalucia

LIV Golf wrapped up a busy three-week stretch in the United States in style. We saw yet another first-time champion in Tyrrell Hatton in Nashville, with the Englishman winning in by six strokes over Majesticks GC's Sam Horsfield. It was doubly sweet for Hatton, as he and captain Jon Rahm propelled Legion XIII to their third team trophy of the season. And while his Crushers GC finished five strokes back for second in the team competition at The Grove, captain Bryson DeChambeau mustered up all the energy following his victory at the U.S. Open Championship to finish in a four-way tie for third place in Nashville.

What better place for LIV Golf to make its first appearance in Europe of the season than a return to Real Club Valderrama. Ranked as one of the top courses in the continent, Valderrama has plenty of hazards and challenges that cannot be reflected by its shorter, 7,010-yard distance. While there are five par-four holes under 400 yards, the litany of bunkers edging the landing spots in the fairways and fiercely protecting the greens makes this one of the toughest courses to score low. Talor Gooch won in 2023 with a one-stroke victory over DeChambeau at 12-under, but of the 48 players in the field that year, only 13 were able to finish under par. 

Andalucia will serve as an all-important tune up for the 152nd Open Championship, the final major of the season. With his victory in the U.S. Open Championship and finishes of second and T6 at the PGA Championship and the Masters, respectively, DeChambeau figures to be one of the favorites heading into Royal Troon as he searches for his first non-U.S. Open major victory in his career. He'll be joined by past Open winners Cameron Smith (2022), Henrik Stenson (2016), Phil Mickelson (2013) and Louis Oosthuizen (2010). 

Horsfield and Fireball GC's Abraham Ancer both earned spots in The Open through final qualifying Tuesday, while John Catlin -- who substituted in for Charles Howell III over the last two LIV Golf tournaments -- is also in the field thanks to his performance in February's IRS Prima Malaysian Open, where he tied for third. Rounding out the LIV Golf representation at Royal Troon include Hatton, Rahm, Dean Burmester, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Adrian Meronk, Joaquin Niemann, Andy Ogletree and David Puig.

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With the first LIV Golf tournament in Europe this season on the horizon, here are my picks for your Andalucia.

Captains (2)

Jon Rahm
Legion XIII

After withdrawing from LIV Golf Houston and missing the U.S. Open Championship due to an infection in his left foot, Rahm returned to action with a T3 finish in Nashville. His eight-under 63 in the second round was the best score of the tournament, and the Spaniard started Championship Sunday with three birdies over the first four holes, only to find the water twice on the par-four sixth hole that halted his climb up the leaderboard. Outside of Houston, Rahm is the only player to finish in the top-10 in every LIV Golf tournament this season. The Legion XIII captain leads the league with 5.36 birdies per round, and is in the top-10 in GIR, driving distance and putting.

Bryson DeChambeau
Crushers GC

After three grueling weeks in the United States, highlighted by his victory in the U.S. Open Championship, DeChambeau enters Andalucia with two weeks of much-needed rest. Even with his emotional victory at Pinehurst in the rearview, the Crushers GC captain stayed in contention at LIV Golf Nashville, tying fellow captains Rahm and Joaquin Niemann for third. DeChambeau finished Nashville with the best driving accuracy in the field (85.71 percent) while ranking third, fourth and seventh in driving distance, GIR and birdies made, respectively. DeChambeau came agonizingly close to winning in Andalucia in 2023, finishing one stroke behind winner Talor Gooch

Honorable Mentions: Cameron Smith, Ripper GC (Used a six-under 65 in the second round at The Grove to finish T9 in Nashville, leads the league in putting average (1.52 per hole); Louis Oosthuizen, Stinger GC (climbed to a 13th finish in Houston thanks to a seven-under 64 in the final round, leads the field this season in scrambling and ranks third in driving accuracy and GIR).

Non-Captains (4)

Tyrrell Hatton
Legion XIII

LIV Golf's most consistent player of the season finally claimed his first individual trophy of the season, winning by a commanding six strokes at The Grove. Hatton's best stretch of play in Nashville was on the back-nine of the second round, when he finished the day with six birdies over the final seven holes, and he maintained that form on Championship Sunday. He finished first, second and fourth in birdies made, GIR and putting average, respectively, at LIV Golf Nashville, and a good finish in Andalucia will give Hatton plenty of momentum heading into Royal Troon.

Richard Bland
Cleeks GC

Although Bland sits 25th in the individual season standings, he has earned points in every LIV Golf tournament outside of Jeddah. His T9 finish in Nashville was his second top-10 finish at a LIV event this year, and he followed that up with his second consecutive senior major title, beating Hiroyuki Fujita in a two-hole playoff at the U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club. Bland ranks fifth this season in GIR (74.28 percent) and 11th in driving accuracy (63.49 percent), which should translate nicely to the shorter Valderrama course.

Sam Horsfield
Majesticks GC

Horsfield came alive at The Grove, with his six-under 65 in the final round propelling the Englishman to a second-place finish. It was his first top-5 finish of the season, and while he's lounged at the bottom across most statistical categories this season, he finished LIV Golf Nashville fourth in GIR (77.78 percent), seventh in scrambling (75 percent) and 11th in driving accuracy (76.19 percent). Andalucia will serve as a tune-up for Horsfield, who earned a spot in the 152nd Open Championship through Final Qualifying at West Lancashire.  

Paul Casey
Crushers GC

Entering Championship Sunday at four-under, Casey fired a six-under 65 in the final round in Nashville to surge to his second consecutive top-10 finish. While he ranks 46th in putting average for the season (1.63), he was much better in that category at The Grove, with his 1.50 putts per hole ranked sixth in the field. He heads into Andalucia second in GIR (75.46 percent), third in scrambling (70.59 percent) and eighth in driving accuracy (64.72 percent). 

Honorable Mentions: Talor Gooch, Smash GC (he's coming off a T42 finish in Nashville, his worst of the season, but he won this event in 2023 after defeating DeChambeau on a birdie putt on the 18th hole), Marc Leishman, Ripper GC (extended his streak of accruing points at LIV Golf tournaments to five with his T18 finish in Nashville, ranks sixth and 10th in scrambling and putting average, respectively, this season).

Teams (2)

Torque GC

While Torque have yet to capture a team trophy this season, they have finished top-4 in seven of nine tournaments this season. There's no question Niemann has been the best of the team this season, but Carlos Ortiz and Sebastian Munoz have stepped up over the last few weeks, highlighted by Ortiz's victory in Houston and Munoz finishing T7 in Nashville. Torque ranks second in both GIR and birdies per round, and third in driving distance this season.

Legion XIII

Winning a team trophy is far less difficult when your top two golfers are playing exceptionally well, as was the case with Hatton and Rahm in Nashville. The debutant team went 20-under in the second round, which was the best score of the tournament, and their 12-under score on Championship Sunday secured their third victory of the season. Legion XIII lead the league in birdies per round and rank second in both putting average and GIR.

Honorable Mentions: Fireballs GC (they finished second in back-to-back tournaments before Nashville, and they rank third in birdies per round, driving accuracy and putting average this season), Stinger GC (the all-South African foursome were bolstered by the return of Oosthuizen in Nashville, and the team ranks second in scrambling and fourth in GIR this season).

Sleepers (5)

Kieran Vincent
Legion XIII

Vincent's T18 finish in Nashville was his best of the season, and he was 14th and 15th in GIR (72.22 percent) and driving distance (321.6 yards), respectively, at The Grove. The LIV Golf debutant quietly finished top-24 in each of the last three tournaments. 

Eugenio Chacarra
Fireballs GC

After finishing LIV Golf Houston 41st and missing the cut at the U.S. Open Championship, Chacarra bounced back nicely with a T18 finish at LIV Golf Nashville. Although he ranked 48th in GIR at The Grove at 59.26 percent, he finished fourth in putts per hole (1.48) and sixth in driving distance (333.2 yards).

Matthew Wolff
RangeGoats GC

After a one-over start in Nashville, Wolff finished strong with back-to-back four-under 67 rounds. He finished the tournament with the best driving distance (34.1.4 yards) and ranked top-10 in scrambling and putting average. Wolff will be looking for redemption at Valderrama after finishing 44th with a 12-over score in 2023.

Sebastian Munoz
Torque GC

Munoz is coming off his best placement of the season, finishing T7 at Nashville thanks to a bogey-free five-under 66 in the final round. He enters Andalucia sixth in birdies per round (4.56) and in the top-15 in driving accuracy and GIR. At last year's event, Munoz rode back-to-back three-under 67 rounds to finish fourth.

Brendan Steele
HyFlyers GC

Steele followed up his victory in Adelaide with finishes of T40 and T37 in Singapore and Houston, respectively, but he managed to finish T16 in Nashville thanks to back-to-back four-under 67 rounds. His 18 birdies at The Grove ranked third in the field, and he finished 10th in putts per hole (1.52).

Prediction

Gooch won here in 2023 to capture his third individual trophy of the season, but we haven't had a successful defense this year to date. I'm tempted to pick Rahm to win his first LIV Golf trophy in his home country, but I'm going to go with his elite teammate, Tyrrell Hatton, to join Niemann as a two-time winner this year. Hatton's dominant victory in Nashville after his disappointing finish at the U.S. Open makes him the biggest threat to usurp Niemann at the top of the individual season standings. The top-five will round out with Rahm, Gooch, Smith and DeChambeau, while Torque GC pulls off the successful defense in Andalucia.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cullum Brownbridge
Cullum is a RotoWire contributor for the NFL, NBA, MLB and Golf. He is irrationally pessimistic about his favorite sports teams.
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