Well we’re finally here! The second major of the season and my favourite event of the year. It’s been a long haul since the Masters but I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the US Open. I love watching pro golfers struggle with the course and personally enjoy watching players struggle to make par. The courses at the US open are always some of the most fascinating on tour with wicked setups and this week will be no different. There’s also a little DFS gpp this week called the Millionaire Maker going on so that should be interesting. Anyways no time to waste
On to the US Open…
The US Open
This year’s US open will in some ways be like all the past US Open events and in some ways like no other. The things that will remain the same and that you will see a lot of? Bad scores, frustrated golfers, player’s balls running off greens after it looked like they hit a perfect shot and some really tough golf holes. The difference will mainly lie in how the course is setup and how it challenges the players. Unlike past US Opens Chambers Bay is a strict links golf course. There’s no huge rough, no narrow fairways, and no trees! This is essentially a British Open course being used for the US Open and the skill set needed to win this week might be very different than past events. However, even though links experience is important this week there is also another competent that is vital for success at every US Open, mental toughness. Many players have already gone on record as saying the course is joke or expressed negative feelings towards the USGA, and those players have likely already taken themselves out of the running. I have no doubt that this week, like any US open week, the players with the best mindset going into the event will be the ones who have the most success.
The course itself plays as a par 70 and can be setup up anywhere between 7400 and 7800 yards. It is really long for a par 70, however due the links set up players will be getting a ton of roll on their tee shots. The fairways here are extremely wide and so long hitters will likely carry a large advantage as they’ll be able to carry some of the very penal bunkers that shorter hitters cannot. However, even though the greens are massive there are also many different slopes and undulations throughout this golf course and hitting greens and fairways might still be difficult on many holes. Massive bunkers and runoffs await players and thick fescue grass surrounds the course. If players get too out of line huge scores and lost balls will happen.
I’ve concentrated on three stats this week:
Greens in Regulation
I’ve already touched on why distance is important this week, and some notably players have already referred to the course as a “bombers paradise”. Distance trumps accuracy at US Opens for the most part and I think long hitters carry an advantage this week. However staying out of and escaping from trouble this week is also going to be key and that is why I’ve looked at GIR and scrambling. Shorter hitters can make up for their lack of length with great ball striking (hitting lots of greens) and play around the greens (scrambling). I think both of these components will be as key to winning as distance and they are stats I’ve considered when making my picks.
Odds to win: 30-1
This course has been described as a gruelling test of a player’s fortitude that will require length and good patience around the greens. When looking at all the players the one I really thought fit the bill the best was Henrik Stenson. Stenson is a great long iron player and has a fantastic links record with numerous top ten finishes to his name at the Open championship (including one at St. Andrews). Stenson is ranked 2nd on tour in greens in regulation and has shown a huge improvement in his putting and short game over the course of the year. He’s been really under the radar recently but is coming in healthy and in decent form after a top ten finish in Europe two weeks ago. He’s cheaper than many of the other top plays and is someone I’ll be targeting a lot in fantasy this week.
Odds to win: 25-1
I am in general a pretty big fan of Rickie Fowler. On top of finally breaking through at a big event a few weeks ago at the Players (and winning me some money) Fowler has an excellent links record that will serve him extremely well at Chambers Bay. Fowler is long enough off the tee to keep up with the big bombers but has deft touch on and around the greens that many of the long hitters don’t possess. I am obviously a pretty big Rickie fan and think he’s got a great chance at another top finish this week. He’s pricey but with question marks surrounding many of the top plays I think Rickie offers some upside that many others at his price do not.
Odds to win: 55-1
I think it’s only a matter of time before Patrick Reed wins a US Open. He has a fantastic short game and is phenomenal with the putter as well. His ability to save par time and time again will undoubtedly serve him well at this event and I expect he’ll be a popular play this week. Reed is one of the few players who can say he has had past success at this course as he shot one of the rounds of the tournament back in 2010 when the USGA Amateur was played at Chambers Bay. If this course gets super firm Reed is likely going to be one of the largest beneficiaries as he’s already shown he has tremendous mental fortitude and can handle tough conditions (as he did when he won at Doral in 2014). Whether or not Reed wins this week he still offers good fantasy value as he’s priced cheaper than many top plays and brings a record that already boosts 4 PGA tour wins.
Odds to win: 50-1
Snedeker might not seem like the most obvious pick this week but he actually has a lot going for him. The first to thing to note about Snedeker is that he’s in great form. He just missed a win at the Colonial and then had a great weekend to finish top 6 at the Byron Nelson. Snedeker also has a pretty nice record on links style courses and his great putting and touch around the greens should serve him well this week. He finished inside the top 10 at the US Open last year at Pinehurst mainly due to his ability to handle the fast greens. I think Snedeker is a very interesting fantasy play this week and one that some people might overlook due to his lack of distance. If his putter gets hot I could see Snedeker handling this course very well and possibly even winning his first major championship.
Odds to win: 80-1
Oosthuizen is the man who won the British Open (in record fashion) the last time it was played at St. Andrews, and given that the course this week has many of the same links style features he was someone I looked at closely. Oosthuizen is going to be off the radar for many people because of his recent health woes but I suspect his recent withdrawal (at Colonial) was more about ensuring he was rested and healthy for the US Open. As Oosthuizen showed when he won the Open at St Andrews he can really dominate on long firm golf courses and is still one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the game. Even if he doesn’t win this week at 7600 Oosthuizen can still end up being a pretty huge fantasy play at his price if he top ten’s, which I think is well within his ability on this course. He’s someone who almost always seems to put up a good showing in major championships and I like him as a very under-owned gpp play who could outscore many more popular options at his price range.
Odds to win: 100-1
Leishman is high on my list of great value plays this week. He’s a big hitter off the tee and more importantly has been trending extremely well the past few weeks coming into this event. Leishman has some decent results in major championships and top ten’d last year in the Open at Hoy Lake. When Leishman is on he’s proven he can compete with the best in the world, and even though he doesn’t have a huge number of titles to his credit at his price this week you don’t need him to win to pay off his price tag. I think Leishman’s going to be one of the players who benefits greatly from the massive fairways and will have a real chance of paying off huge in fantasy. His salary gives you oodles of flexibility and a way to fit in other talented players.
Odds to win: 125-1
Grace is the third South African on my list and also possibly the most talented. He’s a fantastic links player who won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a couple years ago, which is played on St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbard, a very similarly styled set of courses to this week’s test. Grace is a fairly long hitter as well and has recently been showing some of the top form that has allowed him to win multiple times over in Europe. Three weeks ago he landed an 11th at the BMW championship at Wentworth and he also has two top ten’s to his name on the PGA tour over the past two months. Grace is one of my hands down favourite plays under 7k this week on DraftKings and even though he comes in at 7800 on Victiv I think he has enough upside to use him there too.
Odds to win: 200-1
Gallacher is Scottish player who started the season slowly but recently seemed to get his health and form back together. There’s two things that really turn me on about Gallacher this week. The first is his price and likely low ownership levels, and the second is the great record at St Andrews and the Open Championship he possesses. Gallacher won the Alfred Dunhill Links event (the same one Grace did) back in 2004 and has also seen his best major championship finishes come at links styled venues. He recently had only positive things to say about the course and seems to be in a great state of mind this week. I won’t be shocked if he ends up being a surprise top 20 finisher and someone who more than pays off his puny salary.
Odds to win: 200-1
I like Goosen on both sites but think he offers better price relief on Victiv. Goosen is a former US open champion (x2) and has always been one of the best fast-green putters in the world. Even though Goosen doesn’t have the length he used to off the tee he has enough experience to get around this unique links style course and possibly even get himself in the mix for another title. Goosen is not a sexy pick, but this is not a week for sexy golf (whatever that is). Par is a good score and Goosen’s understanding of links golf and how to work fast greens should serve him well. He’s one of my favourite lower tier roster options on Victiv.
Fade: Jordan Spieth… I don’t think this is the course for Spieth and I don’t like the fact he’s the second highest salaried player on fantasy sites. The US Open is a completely different event and venue than the Masters and I expect a completely different winner.
My Pick: Henrik Stenson (over Fowler in a playoff)… this is the toughest event of the year to call, and the course offers no guidance so I’m simply going with the best blend of links history, power and finesse around the greens. I like Rickie but ultimately I think Stenson prevails.