An in-depth preview and key DFS choices for the U.S. Open
Course: Shinnecock Hills (Shinnecock Hills, New York)
Yardage: 7,445 – Par 70
Purse : $12 M
Field: 156 Players
*Past U.S Open Champions
More DFS Golf: Wells Fargo Championship Advance
The 2nd Major of the year is here! A ho-hum FedEx St.Jude Classic was highlighted by Dustin Johnson reclaiming the number one ranking in the world after blowing away the field. Johnson secured the largest victory this season beating Andrew Putnam by six strokes and everyone else in the field by at least 10 shots. The 2016 U.S. Open Champion seems ready to take a crack at his 2nd career major victory where he’ll try to beat 155 players who all rank lower than him.
It’s been 14 years since the PGA Tour pros have seen Shinnecock Hills on the schedule and from what we understand things should be a little different from last year. For any of you who were golf fans the last time the U.S Open was played here, they’ll remember PGA Tour pros having their souls taken by some of the most outrageous greens ever constructed. Balls that were hit four feet from the green would somehow find a way to slip off the front or back of the green. The greens were so ridiculously fast that grounds crew members were watering the greens in between holes to attempt to slow them down a bit. It was the U.S Open at it’s finest. If the greens are running anywhere near how they were in 2004, there may be a few tantrums in store.
So let’s talk fantasy golf. Unlike other tournaments which have the Top 70 and ties making the cut, the U.S Open will only allow the Top 60 and ties to make it through the weekend. With a full field of 156 players, that makes it the lowest percentage of golfers making it through the cut of any tournament. That means picking six-of-six is a guaranteed cash this week, and it could certainly be possible to cash with only four or five golfers making it through if you have some top finishers. This is the complete opposite of the Masters where you had to have all six of your golfers, and then some solid finishes just to cash.
All of top 50 in the world will be in attendance for the 118th U.S Open Golf Championship. Tiger Woods isn’t one of those 50, (he’s currently no. 80), but he’ll be in Long Island this weekend attempting to win his first major since the 2008 U.S Open at Torrey Pines. That’s right it’s’ the ten year anniversary since el Tigre’s last major championship win. Also in the field are last minute additions Byeong Hun-An, Emiliano Grillo, Scott Piercy, Ted Potter Jr., Rikuya Hoshino, and Ryan Evans were all added as of Monday so for anyone who’s already entered lineups, you will also have those players as options. They could be decent GPP plays, since many people who have already entered lineups can easily forget that they were added.
So let’s talk about the star of the U.S open. The golf course. Shinnecock Hills has gone under a heavy restoration since it’s last appearance in 2004. The course has been lengthened by around 450 yards with 17 new back-tee boxes. The fairways won’t be as narrow as they were in 2004, but they’ll be a lot narrower than last year at Erin Hills. Despite the wider fairways, you’ll want to roster good drivers of the golf ball this week (strokes gained: off-the-tee), because missing the fairway most likely means players will be in knee-high fescue or a fairway bunker. Not finding the fairway is almost a guaranteed bogey in these events. The USGA always makes sure that the rough is as evil (thick) as possible, and the greens will be like putting downhill on ice. With the greens playing so fast, it’s a lot easier for players to make par if the ball is actually on the green in regulation, as opposed to needing to get up and down. That makes strokes gained: approach even more important than it already is and it’s a stat I endorse nearly every week. Don’t forget about the short game either. With the greens running at approximately the speed of light, players who can really control it around the greens (strokes gained: around the green) will have a great opportunity to separate themselves more than usual in that category. Surely, we’ll see a few chips from point blank range run 20 feet past the hole, off the green, and into bunkers and collection areas. A video from Jeff Smith has already gone viral, showing him dropping a golf ball on the 18th green, and it rolling some 50-60 feet off the front of the green.
Although the course isn’t exactly the same, when the Open was hosted at Shinnecock in 2004, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson were the only players to shoot under par. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for the winning score to be right around even par or even above it this week. With that in mind, we want players who are solid in bogey avoidance. This is a U.S. Open, there will be bogeys, but making less of them is the key to winning this major.
As a links style course, the wind could whip through Shinnecock and blow-up all the scores of anyone unfortunate enough to still be on the course. It may be wise to hold off on creating a lineup until you can get an accurate look at the Thursday/Friday weather. Looking up the weather patterns versus the tee times for round one and two is a good strategy for picking players. At a course like this, a bad weather draw could completely annihilate a golfer’s chances at making the cut.
Strokes gained: Off-the-tee
Strokes gained: approach
Strokes gained: around-the-green
U.S, Open DraftKings Picks
Dustin Johnson ($11,700) Fresh off a six shot win at the FedEx St. Jude it’s hard to make a case against Dustin Johnson, so I won’t. He’s finished inside the Top 10 in eight of his 12 starts this year, and has no finishes worse than T17. Now that he’s gotten the monkey off his back by winning at Oakmont in 2016, he should more comfortable in U.S Open conditions than at any other major. Johnson is first on Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee, second in bogey avoidance, and 12th in strokes gained: approach. His one “weakness” which is around the green play, he’s still in the top quarter of the field. There’s simply no downside to his game right now.
Justin Rose ($9,900) With Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, they give me the two hottest golfers on the PGA Tour right now. Rose has shot in the 60s in seven of his last nine competitive rounds, picking up a win and a T6 during that span. Rose is another former U.S open winner and he certainly has the game to win another one. He’s fifth in bogey avoidance this season, and ranks inside the Top 20 in all strokes gained categories. His game is simply set up to perform well at majors, as he has no real weaknesses and a ton of experience.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,200) Rafa Cabrera-Bello is coming off of back-to-back Top 10 finishes on the European Tour and a T17 at the PLAYERS Championship before that just to show he can hang with our boys over here. Cabrera-Bello ranks inside the Top 10 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach, and is above average everywhere else. For this price range he has a good amount of experience at majors. In his 20th major start he’s made seven of his last nine cuts at majors tournaments including his last two U.S Opens. If you’re going to go with the stars and scrubs method like I am, players like Rafa are a fairly safe bet to make the cut, and possibly give you more.
Zach Johnson ($7,100) Going with the same theory as Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Zach Johnson is another heavily experienced player to go with. I wouldn’t bet on him to win, but I can definitely see him finishing inside the Top 15 or 20. Johnson won’t get embarrassed by the U.S. open greens like some other players will, his short game is and has always been phenomenal. As a result, he hardly makes any bogeys ranking 21st in bogey avoidance. He’s also having a terrific season with his irons ranking 20th in strokes gained: approach. To put that in perspective he’s gaining shots on players who you’d think of to be better ball strikers like Justin Rose, Tony Finau, and Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler to name a few.
Emiliano Grillo ($7,100) Emiliano Grillo is the one outlier here. He doesn’t have nearly as much experience as the rest of my lineup, but I just love this kids game. He’s been pretty much an automatic Top 25 finish in every tournament he’s played since mid-march. Grillo has figured out what it takes to be a professional on the PGA Tour and is on his way to superstardom, mark my words. At only 25 he is playing in his 10th major, and while he had a rough year last year in the majors, he did have three Top 20 finishes 2016. Grillo strikes the ball beautifully, ranking inside the Top 25 in strokes gained: approach, off-the-tee, and bogey avoidance. He’s fairly average in his around-the-green, but can putt with the best of them ranking 13th in strokes gained: putting.
Steve Stricker ($6,900) Old man Strick is the most experienced of them all. At age 51 Steve Stricker is still competing every time he takes a hiatus from the Champions Tour. Somehow, never winning a major Stricker has logged ten Top 10s in his career at majors, and hasn’t missed a cut in a major since 2009. That’s an incredible streak of 26 straight majors where he hasn’t missed a cut that includes making all four cuts last season. Stricker’s career peaked in when he was in his 40s, so it’s not surprising that he’s still out there showing up the younger guys when he comes to play. His accuracy should prevail against some of the younger, wilder players, on a golf course where big mistakes can mean double and triple bogeys.
Balanced Lineup: Jason Day, Branden Grace, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman