The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
The FieldThe field for the US Open is comprised of 156 golfers, with several players in the field (pros and non-pros alike) gaining entry through local and international qualifying. With only a limited number of exemptions given out for recent major winners, and players in the top 60 of the OWGR, the US Open remains one of the most wide-open events in terms of who can qualify. For DraftKings purposes the irregular field will make for some interesting decisions down at the bottom of the salary charts and the lower down you go the more risk will be involved.
As for the field itself all the top players are in attendance. Defending champion Brooks Koepka has already added to his major collection, winning the PGA Championship twice since he triumphed at Shinnecock Hills last season. Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari have also added major titles and this trio have figured prominently at each of the last four majors now. There are no major injury notes to write of but players like Jason Day (back), Louis Oosthuizen (neck), Marc Leishman (back), and Justin Thomas (wrist), have all experienced some sort of layoff over the past couple of months.
One major difference to take note of this week is the cut. In a normal tour event the top 70 and ties move onto the weekend, with a secondary cut needed if more than 78 players make the weekend. In the US Open, the top 60 and ties get to play the weekend and there is no secondary cut. Also note that while any player within ten of the lead after Friday’s round used to also get through, that rule was abolished a few years ago.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Par 71, 7,075 yards
The famed Pebble Beach Golf Links will act as the host venue for the US Open for the sixth time in its history. It last hosted the championship back in 2010 when Graeme McDowell grinded out a win at even par for the week, the worst winning score since 1972 when Jack Nicklaus won at two-over par.
Pebble Beach will serve as the shortest US Open venue since 2013 when the event was played at Merion, a Par 70 venue that played under 7,000 yards. Much like Merion, shorter length shouldn’t necessarily correlate to better scores. Thick rough is expected this week at Pebble Beach and there’s already videos surfacing of near impossible to hit out of rough merely a few yards away from the green complexes. The rough will be a huge factor this week as Pebble has some of the smallest greens on Tour, averaging in under 4,000 sq feet. The hard to hit greens were a huge factor at the last US Open Pebble hosted as the field averaged just 51% of greens hit, with winner Graeme McDowell hitting just 58%, the lowest percentage for a US Open winner in the last nine years.
Despite the course hosting a regular Tour event every season (Pebble Beach Pro-Am) the course will set-up a lot differently this week than it does for the Pro-Am. The venue will play as a Par 71 instead of a Par 72 (as it does for the Pro-Am) with the second hole being transformed from an easy Par 5 to a tough Par 4. The greens remain natural Poa but should be cut much shorter than normal this week and, unless rain hits, we should expect green speeds to correlate with most past US Opens. On top of the rough being cut longer than normal, fairways will also be reduced by as much as 20 yards in spots, leaving players narrow alleys to land tee shots.
Ultimately Pebble is a short but technical track and, with a reduced Par and the tricked out US Open conditions, it will be an incredibly difficult test with several long Par 4’s that will punish players for missing fairways and greens. While the past four US Open venues have seen more of an emphasis on pure power, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Pebble’s tighter setup produce a winner that isn’t necessarily that long off the tee but has experience dealing with small greens and tough around the green conditions. Expect a gruelling test and possibly a more seasoned type of winner than we’ve had the last two seasons.
2019 Weather Outlook: Despite Pebble Beach being located right on the ocean, it doesn’t appear like we’ll be getting a ton of poor conditions this week. The forecast has gusts topping off in the 10-12 mph range, with Saturday looking like the windiest day as of writing. Thursday A.M. may get the calmest starting position, but the advantage looks to be minimal at best. The biggest issue may be the temperature. Highs in the low-to-mid 60’s are expected possibly making the course play a little tougher and longer than it would in hot conditions. Keep an eye on the wind as things can change dramatically in a day but, as of now, expect cooler but mostly clam conditions for the week.
Last five winners
2018 — Brooks Koepka +1 (over Tommy Fleetwood +2)
2017 – Brooks Koepka -16 (over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama -12)
2016 – Dustin Johnson -4 (over Shane Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy -1)
2015 – Jordan Spieth -5 (over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen -4)
2014 – Martin Kaymer -9 (over Rickie Fowler and Eric Compton -1)
– Five of the last 13 US Open winners had a win on the season before their victory
– Seven of the last nine winners of the US Open had recorded at least four top tens on the season before their US Open win.
– Each of the last nine winners of the US Open ranked inside the top 20 in Greens in Regulation percentage for the week of their win.
Greens in Regulation
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (App and OTT)
Strokes Gained: Putting (Poa)
It’s a simplistic stat, but Green in Regulations has featured prominently among pretty much every US Open winner over the past 10 years. The greens at Pebble in 2010 were the hardest to hit among each of the last nine US Opens since 2010 and are expected to play just as tough this week. Players trending in this stat are in a good position to succeed this week, especially since the venue won’t play quite as long as past ones.
Diving deeper, ball-striking stats need to be emphasized more this week. Looking at Strokes Gained: Approach and Off the Tee stats combined makes sense as the tighter fairways, shorter setup and small greens means players won’t necessarily benefit from a bomb and gouge strategy.
Finally, while putting can be tricky to predict, players trending well with the flat-stick should be somewhat emphasized, especially if they have good track records on Poa Annua surfaces. The green surfaces at Pebble are some of the most unique on Tour so looking at turf specific strokes gained: putting stats could help you find the person ready to have a magical week with his flat-stick.
Finding ValuesOdds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Brandt Snedeker||50-1||$7500||Ian Poulter 80-1 and $7500
Bubba Watson 80-1 and $7600
Rory Sabbatini 150-1 and $7700
|Adam Scott||30-1||$8600||Francesco Molinari 30-1 and $9000
Hideki Matsuyama 33-1 and $8800
Tommy Fleetwood 33-1 and $8900
Course Horses1. Phil Mickelson (best finishes: win – 2019, 2012): Phil is a four-time winner at Pebble (Pro-Am), with his most recent win being earlier this season. Mickelson has the most experience of anyone in the field at this venue by a mile and should be viewing this as his last legitimate shot at winning a US Open title.
2. Tiger Woods(best finishes: 2000 US Open): Tiger won in dominant fashion at Pebble back in 2000, besting the field by an amazing 15-strokes. He finished T4 here in 2010 as well and has played well at several West Coast venues over his career. He’s set-up to make another major run this week.
3. Dustin Johnson (best finishes: win – 2010, 2009): If not for Phil and Tiger’s experience, Dustin would be the clear lead horse this week. DJ has won the Pro-Am here twice and finished inside the top-5 at the event on four other occasions. He also held the 54-hole lead at Pebble in 2010 before self-destructing in round four.
4. Brandt Snedeker (best finishes: win – 2015, 2013): Snedeker is another two-time winner of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The deadly putter is one of the best Poa Annua putters on Tour and has a fantastic track record on the west coast with two other wins at Torrey Pines. He’s a man to watch this week and comes in with good form.
5. Jason Day (best finishes: T2-2018, T4-2015): Day has never won at Pebble but he’s been a solid horse at this venue over his career nonetheless. The Aussie has terrific Poa putting stats and has finished T6 or better in his last seven starts at the Pro-Am held here every year. He was T46 at Pebble in 2010 but was just starting out his career back then.
Top Recent Form
1. Patrick Cantlay: Coming in on absolute fire. Won his last time out at the Memorial and is now second on Tour in SG: Tee to Green stats. If you’re going on form alone and he’s the best player in the world at the moment.
2. Adam Scott: Solo second in his last start and T8 at the PGA Championship. He led the field in SG: Approaches and Tee to Green stats at Memorial, coming in extra-hot.
3. Rory McIlroy: Coming in off a big blowout win in Canada. His form has been all over the place as he finished T8 at the PGA after bouncing back from a horrible start there and then missed the cut at the Memorial before his win last week.
4. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama has improved his finishing position in each of his last five starts, with a T6 at the Memorial representing his best finish of the season.
5. Jordan Spieth: Despite his ball-striking still having some question marks, Spieth has now finished T8 or better in his last three starts. A former winner at pebble Beach in 2016, he’s capable of a shock week here.
6. Webb Simpson: Faded a bit on Sunday in Canada but held onto a top-10 position there. Hasn’t finished outside the top-30 in his last five starts. Comes in ranked 20th in SG: Tee to Green stats on Tour.
7. Matt Kuchar: Bounced back nicely from a missed cut at Memorial with a top-five finish in Canada. Kuchar has finished T8 or better in five of his last seven starts now and looks ready to challenge for a win this week.
8. Martin Kaymer: Kaymer has been on the comeback trail of late. The 2014 US Open winner has finished T8 or better in two of his last four starts and held the 54-hole lead at the Memorial before getting caught by a hot Patrick Cantlay on Sunday.
9. Billy Horschel: He’s going under the radar but is trending perfectly into the year’s third major. Has improved his finishing position in each of his last three starts and finished T9 his last time out at the Memorial.
10. Shane Lowry: Lowry has been getting hot at the right time. The Irishman finished T3 at the Heritage and has backed that up with a T8 finish at the PGA Championship and a top-five last week at the Canadian Open.
Cash Games: Patrick Cantlay ($10,000) remains the hottest player in the world coming off his win at the Memorial and, considering he’s still only the fifth most expensive golfer on DraftKings, he makes for a good anchor point. After Cantlay, the 8k targets like Matt Kuchar ($8,500), Adam Scott ($8,600) and Xander Schauffele ($8,700) seem like good upper-tier value given their recent form and US Open records. The real value exists underneath this range though as players like Webb Simpson ($7,700), Henrik Stenson ($7,600) and Jimmy Walker ($7,000) all make for great cash values.
Tournaments: If you think the bombers may have less of an advantage this week, then starting GPP lineups out with Tiger Woods ($10,700) makes sense. He’s first on Tour in Green in Regulation and knows how to navigate a technical track like Pebble. Jason Day’s ($9,100) injury history and lack of play make him a risky target but at a cheap price his Pebble form makes him an elite play in big GPPs. Other notable tournament targets this week with plenty of upside, but who should garner low sentiment in GPPs, include Louis Oosthuizen ($7,900), JB Holmes ($7,300), Billy Horschel ($7,200), Matt Jones ($6,700) and Nick Taylor ($6,500).
MY PICK: Xander Schauffele ($8,700)Schauffele has looked close to putting together a big week over the last couple of months and his chances to cash-in on his current form with a victory at Pebble, in the year’s third major, look excellent. The 25-year-old has already proven himself a steely competitor with four wins on Tour in just two years time and he’s already gained valuable experience in majors with four finishes of T6 or better at four of the five majors (yes, I’m counting the PLAYERS). A T16 at the PGA, where he ranked fourth in greens hit, was followed by a missed cut at Colonial, but a T14 finish at The Memorial was more than encouraging. Schauffele ranked first in SG: Off the Tee stats at the tough Muirfield Village (13th in Driving Accuracy) and was again fourth in greens in regulation. He comes in a touch under the radar this week, which should suit him just fine, but does have the added benefit of having played Pebble Beach once before in 2017 (he shot 69). He posted strong west coast form earlier this season and should be viewing this major—where he’s placed T6 and T5 the last two years—with wide eyes given how well he’s handled the tougher USGA setups. He’s a great DFS target at under 9k in price and my pick to take home the trophy this week.
My Sleeper: Billy Horschel ($7,200)Horschel’s an interesting prospect this week and one that has a lot of potential to pay off in big field tournaments. Despite the lack of fanfare, he’s improved his finishing position in each of his last three event finishes coming into Pebble Beach, with a T9 his last time out at The Memorial. More impressive, is the fact that his performances have been marked by great ball-striking, which saw him rank first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats at Colonial and T4 in Greens hit at The Memorial. It’s also interesting to note that, despite no major wins, Horschel’s best finish in a major came at the US Open when it was played at the short Merion in 2013. With Pebble set to play as the shortest US Open track since Merion, Horschel’s elite ball-striking should be allowed to shine through this week and possibly lead him to a big week for fantasy purposes.
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