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

Intro

Major season is upon us! After a slew of regular season events we are finally at the US Open and the first of three major championships that will be played over the next month and a half. The US Open may not have the stylistic backdrop of Augusta but it is the most unique major in a lot of other ways. Almost every year the course of choice ends up being as much a story as the players themselves and this year will be no different. While the undoubted goal of the USGA—the people who run the Open—is to get winning scores as close to par as possible, this year they might not have to work very hard to do that. The players will be tackling Oakmont CC this year, and even before championship alterations it was widely hailed as the hardest test of golf on the planet. Expect this week to be a suffer-fest, plain and simple.

The Field

The field for the US Open is comprised of 156 players, with several of the players 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 in the WGR, the US Open remain one of the most wide open events in terms of who can qualify. This also means that some quality players will not actually be in attendance and that the field will have some lessor known names. For our purposes, it will make for some interesting decisions down at the bottom of the salary charts when making lineups. As for the field itself, all of the top players are here including last years winner Jordan Spieth and runners-up Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen.

One thing to take note of is the cut this week. 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.

The Course

Oakmont CC—Pittsburgh, Penn
Par 70, 7200-7300 yards

At it’s heart Oakmont is an extremely simple looking course. The club tore out almost all of the trees before the 2007 Open and it looks very much like a links style course now. There also aren’t many doglegs or tricky tee shots that players will have to navigate either. Many of Oakmont’s holes play very straightforward and there’s no guessing as to the right line. While that may make Oakmont sound easy, that’s where the fun stops. The rough is very challenging, and with the USGA taking over this week, it will be even more harsh than usual. A slightly off kilter tee shot could end up costing your player multiple shots. On top of an incredibly thick rough, the course also has over 200 bunkers, many of which will cause players to lay up short of the green if they find one off the tee. The course is famous for its mammoth Church Pew bunkers which are almost an automatic dropped shot for those who visit them.

And then there’s the greens. Oakmont’s greens are kept at lightning speed all year and punish even the slightest miss. You will see balls roll off the green this week, you will see players blow 10 foot putts 15 feet past the hole and you’ll see a lot of frustrated golfers. The greens will be the big story and based on several videos already posted on social media, putting is going to be insanely difficult this week.

As far as setup, the course also has a variety of different distances and different looks it can throw at players. While the course has plenty of long par 4’s there also five that measure under 400 yards in length. Some of these holes might even be drivable by today’s players but it doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. An off kilter drive or approach chip will still bring bogey into play. Oakmont is unlikely to be overpowered this week.

The rest of the course is made up of two par 5’s—both of which will measure well over 600 yards—that will likely play considerably tougher than the par 5’s the players see on a typical course every week. There’s also four par 3’s on the course, one of which measures in at 288 yards and which may be setup as long as 300 yards for the players off the tee at some point. All in all, Oakmont is a course which will require, accuracy, power, finesse and an inordinate amount of confidence for players to conquer. It’s going to be as interesting a course to watch as you’ve ever seen.

Last 5 winners

2015 – Jordan Spieth -5 (over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen -4)
2014 – Martin Kaymer -9 (over Rickie Fowler and Eric Compton -1)
2013 – Justin Rose +1 (over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day +3)
2012 – Webb Simpson +1 (over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson +2)
2011 – Rory McIlroy -16 (over Jason Day -8)

Winning Trends

  • 5 of the last 10 US Open winners had a win on the season before their victory
  • The average age of the top 20 competitors at Oakmont back in 2007 was 34.1 years of age
  • 7 of the top 20 players from Oakmont in 2007 ranked inside the top 50 Driving Accuracy for the year (2007).

Statistics:

Strokes Gained: Total
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Par 4 Scoring
Out of Rough—Proximity Stats

I don’t think this is a week where stats will help us as much as we would like them. On top of this being a course we rarely ever see, it is also the US Open which means the course is setup differently than a regular event. Add in Oakmont’s propensity for ultra fast greens and ridiculous rough and it’s hard to know what to look for in the numbers this week.

While Oakmont doesn’t play super long it still puts stress on players off the tee (as most US Opens do) with rough and some ultra long holes. Players will need to be accurate but also decently long as well given that longer approaches will have almost no shot of holding the impossibly fast greens this week. With that being said I think the new Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stat is worth looking at. Additionally, I also think given the absolute unrelenting nature of this golf course looking at Strokes Gained: Total isn’t a bad idea either. Players will need to be picking up shots on the field in all different areas this week and a strong rating in that category is likely a good omen on a course that will test players in every facet.

As for scoring categories, looking at par 4 scoring is a great idea at Oakmont given that the course plays as a par 70 and has 12 par 4’s. Players will absolutely need to navigate the different par 4’s on the course without giving up any huge numbers if they’re going to be anywhere near the top of the leaderboard. Finally, the last statistical categories you could give credence here might be proximity from the rough. While these aren’t statistical categories that are usually given much emphasis, a player who can hack it further than his competitors from the thick stuff this week is going to have a huge advantage and be faced with less scrambling overall. Factoring in who can handle it well from the rough might not be a bad idea if you can fit it into any model or rankings system.

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.

PlayerOddsDK PriceComparables
Charl Schwartzel67-1$7,500Jim Furyk $7,700 and 80-1
Brandt Snedeker $8,000 and 70-1
Zach Johnson $7,800 and 80-1
Matthew Fitzpatrick67-1$7,300Marc Leishman $7,300 and 80-
Kevin Kisner $7,300 and 90-1
Justin Thomas $7,400 and 80-1

HORSES FOR COURSES

The course this week was used for play back in 2007 and while those results don’t offer us a ton of data they can give you a glimpse as to which players handled Oakmont the best.

  • Jim Furyk finished runner-up to Angel Cabrera at Oakmont in 2007. While Cabrera might be an interesting play this week given his strong finish at Augusta in April (T24), Furyk’s recent form is not exactly inspiring. Coming off wrist surgery, Furyk has yet to show the consistent form that has made him a DFS favorite in the past, but his accuracy and ability to navigate tough golf courses could make him a wildcard this week. The lessons he learned form 2007 will be likely be invaluable either way.
  • Paul Casey is a name that popped up when looking back at the 2007 results. Casey finished 10th overall but had the round of the tournament with a 66 on Friday. The Englishman faded on Sunday but his strong tee to green game might help him post another solid result this year.
  • Charl Schwartzel played this course back in 2007 and while his T30 may not jump off the page it should be noted that Schwartzel only posted two double bogies for the week (an accomplishment even if it doesn’t sound like one). With a major under his belt—and a PGA tour win from this season—you have to like Schwartzel’s chances of improving on that result this week.
  • Brandt Snedeker played extremely solid at Oakmont back in 2007 and like Schwartzel you have to think his added experience might just help him get closer to the front this time around. One of the best putters on tour, Snedeker should be able to navigate the greens better than most this week.

DFS STRATEGY

I can’t express how strange this tournament is going to be for fantasy scoring. Normally players might score around 20-30 fantasy points a round in golf, but this week, given how hard the course will be, I’m expecting closer to an average total in the single digits. That means that winning fantasy teams might not even put up 300 points. Thus, where your golfer places will be crucial given the lack of bonus points that will be scored. While that might seem like a recipe for loading up on as many top players as possible, some of the names at the bottom of this field might have trouble scoring positive points some days (and may actually hurt you if they make the cut). I’m personally advocating a more balanced approach. The quality players in the field should have a better shot of at least generating some birdies for you and getting you in the black for all four rounds. With so many great names in the field, I’d be wary of going with too many scrubs on your team this week.

Top Performing Studs from recent weeks

  • Dustin Johnson
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Phil Mickelson

Top Performing Value plays from recent weeks

  • Chris Wood
  • Emiliano Grillo
  • Retief Goosen

MY PICK: Sergio Garcia ($8,900)

I don’t know if Sergio Garcia will win this week or not, all I know is that I refuse not to play him at his current price for DFS. Garcia enters into this major on a roll after winning the Byron Nelson tournament in his last start and he’s had many positives this year that lead me to believe he might be peaking at just the right time for Oakmont. Garcia finished third on a very tough course at the Spanish Open this year and outside of one disastrous round, played very well at Augusta also. If you ask me who I think has the best chance to win this week, I’d probably say Jason Day, but if you ask me who the golfer with the best form, attitude and DFS price is amoung the top players I’d say Sergio Garcia. Garcia is currently first on tour in Greens in Regulation and 13th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee as well. Hitting the ball long—and keeping it out of the rough off the tee is going to be vital this week and a great driving performance on Sunday is what ultimately allowed Angel Cabrera to win here back in 2007. I think Garcia has many of the same attributes to succeed here as Cabrera and is coming into this week in a great mindset and great form. I get that we don’t always know what to expect from Sergio in major championships but I think we’ll see him compete here and maybe, just maybe, get the first major win of his career.

MY SLEEPER: Soren Kjeldsen ($6,400)

Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7,000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned

Experience could be a huge factor this week. The last time this tournament was played at Oakmont in 2007 the average finishing age of the top 20 players was over 34 years. Kjeldsen (41) may not be a well known name but he’s got plenty of experience and has been putting up huge results at plenty of tough golf courses over the past couple of years. On top of winning at the extremely challenging Royal County Downs (Irish Open) in 2015, he also finished T4 at Valderrama (for the Spanish Open) and T7 at Augusta National in 2016. His form has been excellent all year and he’s also coming into this event off a T20 at the Memorial. Kjeldsen was able to navigate Augusta’s treacherous greens with only one 3-putt this year and I think his excellent short game (20th in scrambling in Europe) should also translate well to Oakmont. A lot of top finishers at Oakmont from back in 2007 also had good finishes at Augusta that same year and I think Kjeldsen can help keep that trend going. He’s an extremely efficient golfer who has handled tough golf courses well in the past and could be a surprise finisher on a ridiculously hard test of golf.