US Open Golf

The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.

The Field

The field this week is compressed at only 64 players and will feature the standard WGC no-cut rule, which means all 64 players will play four rounds, outside of any DQs or withdraws. Many of the top players from last week have made the trip over for this lucrative event, but not all of them. Taking the week off here include the likes of Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari. However, despite their absence, the field remains loaded with the top-four players in the world — Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose — all in attendance. Outside of the big names there will be the usual international flavor to this event. International qualifiers like Aaron Rai and Poom Saksansin will offer fantasy players loads of salary relief on DraftKings but not much PGA success or experience to fall back on. Risk-reward will be the name of the game as most DFS players will be looking to jam in as many big names as possible into their lineups to take advantage of the no-cut feature of this event.


The Course

TPC Southwind, Memphis, Tennessee
Par 70, 7,200-7,300 yards

TPC Southwind is an interesting tree-lined PGA venue that features plenty of water and smaller-than-average Bermuda greens. It will be a huge change for the players coming over from Ireland, who just finished taking on traditional “links” venues over their past couple starts. Southwind isn’t an overly long course, but there are tight fairways and numerous doglegs that stretch out some of the holes and take away some of the advantage long hitters have here as well. Winning scores generally have been between -8 and -13, but last season Dustin Johnson brought his A-game and won at -19. Despite that anomaly, though, the venue played as the 11th hardest on Tour and yielded just a 70.520 scoring average.

As a par 70, TPC Southwind has two par 5s that generally play as two of the easiest holes on the course. The 16th will be reachable in two by almost everyone and is probably the only hole on the course where players will lose ground if they don’t walk away with at least birdie. The course features four par 3s as well, two of which play as “island style” greens. The par 3 14th, which can clock in as long as 240 yards, almost always plays as one of the most difficult holes for the week, and overall handling the par 3s has been key to success for past winners.

As for the par 4s, there are seven of them that measure in at 450 yards or longer. While this might not faze players given today’s technology, the doglegs on several of these holes mean long approaches are necessary to reach the smaller-than-normal greens. These holes will put a lot of pressure on approach games and a player’s scrambling abilities, and it’s not a shock to learn winners of the St. Jude usually end up ranking well for the week in Greens in Regulation and/or Scrambling. In 2015 Fabian Gomez ended up eight in the field in Greens in Regulation; while 2016 champ Daniel Berger was second in GIR.

2019 Weather Report: The weather this week looks like it will end up being the complete opposite of what we saw last week at The Open. Temperatures in Memphis are slated to be in the high-80s all week with no sign of rain. Wind, which can often get up at this venue, also looks to be a non-factor as gusts aren’t expected to reach more than 10 mph at any point in the tournament. It’s a smaller WGC field, so stacking tee times isn’t really an employable strategy this week and, given the weather report, it wouldn’t be a beneficial one, either. Look for a hot, fast golf course and for players who enjoy the heat and calmer conditions to excel.


Past Five Winners

**Old FedEx St. Jude Classic results (played at TPC Southwind)

2018 — Dustin Johnson -19 (over Andrew Putnam -13)
2017 — Daniel Berger -10 (over Whee Kim and Charl Schwartzel -9)
2016 — Daniel Berger -13 (over Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Steve Stricker -10)
2015 – Fabian Gomez -13 (over Greg Owen -9)
2014 – Ben Crane -10 (over Troy Merritt -9)

**WGC results (Played at old Firestone course)

2018 — Justin Thomas -15 (over Kyle Stanley -11)
2017 — Hideki Matsuyama -16 (over Zach Johnson -11)
2016 – Dustin Johnson -6 (over Scott Piercy -5)
2015 – Shane Lowry – 11 (over Bubba Watson -9)
2014 – Rory McIlroy -15 (over Sergio Garcia -13)


Winning Trends

— Of the previous eight winners of this event only two (Ben Crane, Daniel Berger) had played the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic (at TPC Southwind) the year prior to his win and made the cut.


Statistics:

Strokes Gained: Approach
Green in Regulation
Scrambling/Strokes Gained: Around the Green

TPC Southwind very much sets up as a second-shot course and looking at stats from the past couple of years at this event confirms that. Both the 2015 and 2016 winners of this event ranked first in SG: Approach for the week, and last year’s champion, Dustin Johnson, ranked second in this category for the week during his win. With TPC Southwind’s smaller-than-average greens, emphasizing SG: Approach seems extremely beneficial this week.

While approach games are important this week I also would look towards stats that measure around-the-green play as well. Scrambling is often important at TPC Southwind, and in 2016 both Steve Stricker and Brooks Koepka (dual runners-up that year) ranked inside the top five for this stat for the week. In 2014, winner Ben Crane also ranked second in this stat for the week despite only being 16th in approach stats; last year’s champion Dustin Johnson also ranked fourth in this stat for the week. Overall, winners at this week’s venue have gotten up and down at a nearly 4% higher rate than average Tour winners (via fantasygolfmetrics.com).


Finding Values

Odds 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.

Player: Xander Schauffele
Odds: 22-1
DraftKings Price: $9,300

Comparables:

– Patrick Cantlay 22-1 and $9,800
– Tommy Fleetwood 22-1 and $10,200
– Justin Rose 22-1 and $9,500

Player: Jason Day
Odds: 30-1
DraftKings Price: $8,300

Comparables:

– Adam Scott 30-1 and $8,700
– Tony Finau 33-1 and $8,400
– Bryson DeChambeau 33-1 and $8,800


HORSES FOR COURSES

1. Phil Mickelson (best finishes: T2-2013, 2016): Despite poor recent form, Phil might be our lead horse this week. Lefty has played at this venue six times since 2009, has never missed a cut here, and has garnered four finishes of T9 or better here over that span.

2. Dustin Johnson (best finishes: win-2018, 2012): Johnson has won at TPC Southwind twice and put up one of the most dominant performances of the season here last year, when he won going away by six strokes. He’s in middling form at the moment but should be given a boost by the venue this week.

3. Billy Horschel (best finishes: T4-2017): Horschel has found lots of success at TPC Southwind over his career, posting four top-10 finishes here over his past six starts. The field this week is much stronger than in years past, but Horschel remains a good target given his course history.

4. Chez Reavie (best finishes T4-2017): Like Horschel, Chez has done well at TPC Southwind at the old event it used to host. Reavie finished T6 and T4 in his past two visits to this venue and enters this year with some confidence having just won a couple starts ago at the Travelers.

5. Brooks Koepka (best finishes: T2-2016; T3-2015): Brooks has never won at this venue but in five starts at the old event it used to host he never missed a cut and has two top-five finishes to his credit here as well. It’s as good a spot as any for him to pick up his first a “non-major” victory in 2019.


DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games: It’s a hard week to handicap after a major, so taking the discount here and starting lineups with a very in-form Justin Thomas ($10,700) seems like a decent strategy. Despite a late triple-bogey on Sunday, Thomas finished T11 at The Open and now ranks second in SG: Tee to Green on the season. Behind Thomas, the $8K-$9K range seems loaded, and taking on the discount with the likes of Henrik Stenson ($9,100) and Paul Casey ($8,200) in this format seems fine. Both have the sort of approach games that have been successful long-term at this week’s venue. Other value considerations for this week include the likes of Billy Horschel ($7,600), Jim Furyk ($7,000) and Keith Mitchell ($6,500).

Tournaments: Brooks Koepka ($11,600) might have depressed ownership simply due to his massive price tag and the fact this isn’t a major. He’s recorded two top-five finishes at TPC Southwind, though, over the past five seasons. A couple other names who might be looking at lower-than-normal ownership due to poor Open finishes include Bryson DeChambeau ($8,800) and Jason Day ($8,300). Both were trending well before heading over to Europe and a quick trip back to a normal PGA venue might do them well. Other large-field GPP targets to consider this week include Matthew Fitzpatrick ($7,700), Brandt Snedeker ($7,400) and Adam Long ($6,300).


Top Recent Form

1. Jon Rahm: Rahm never really got in contention at The Open but finished a solid T11 nonetheless. This was actually his worst finish over his past four starts, which includes a runner-up and win (Irish Open). He’ll be looking to nab his first WGC title this week.

2. Tommy Fleetwood: Fleetwood hasn’t missed a cut in more than 15 starts and was solo second last week at The Open. He’ll be looking for his first win of the year this week, and the only thing fantasy players should worry about is whether he’s too drained from competing in a major to make it happen.

3. Patrick Reed: Reed has been playing solid golf of late. He has five made cuts in a row and has finished T5-T23-T10 over his past three starts. His top-10 at The Open last week was only his third top-10 of the season, but second in his past three starts.

4. Justin Thomas: JT finished T11 at The Open and was T9 previously at the Scottish Open the week prior. Thomas has been more consistent of late since returning form his wrist injury and looks ready to put in a late-season surge.

5. Tyrrell Hatton: The Englishman has finished T21 or better in three of his past four starts. He finished T6 at The Open last week, which was his best finish of the year. He’s another player searching for his first win of 2019 and first WGC victory.


MY PICK: Jason Day ($8,300)

Day most likely will not be popular with DFS players this week after his stunning collapse at Portrush on Friday. However, a short memory can oftentimes be beneficial in fantasy, and there are indicators a quick bounce-back for Day could be in the cards this week. The Aussie had gained strokes on approaches in each of his past eight rounds prior to The Open. A T8 at the Travelers, on a similar track to this week (TPC River Highlands) — where he ranked second in approaches for the week — is a certainly a great indicator his game is in decent shape.

Day also had been striking it well off the tee prior to his Friday back-nine, as he ranked inside the top 20 in Driving Accuracy at both the 3M Open and the Travelers. And while his play last week might be off-putting, it’s also important to note Day was playing fine golf, and in the midst of a bogey-free second round, before hitting a mental block with six holes to play. Day had a similar collapse in Round 2 at the 2017 Open but came back the next day to shoot 65.

He can often be a frustrating play for fantasy purposes, but with the major championship pressure now off and a bruised ego that needs repairing, he might be able to put together that big week he was trending towards at TPC Southwind this week.


MY Sleeper: Jim Furyk ($7,000)

He’s not exciting to talk about, but the 49-year-old Furyk has returned to his usual steady self this season. Furyk cooled off after a hot run in Florida to start the season but still enters this week’s event on a five-start made cut streak, which includes a T63 from last week at The Open. It’s the return to warmer climates, Bermuda greens and a course that favors strong par 4 scorers and accuracy with irons, though, that has me bullish on Furyk this week.

The 2003 US Open winner performed well in these same conditions earlier in the season with a solo second and T18 finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Copperhead, respectively, venues that mimic the setup we’re seeing this week in many regards. Ranked 11th in approaches and third in Driving Accuracy entering the week, the cheaply priced Furyk seems more than capable of putting up a strong finish this week, especially given that many of the top players will be somewhat fatigued coming off a week in contention at a major. He looks like sound value at just $7K.


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.