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The Field

Given that this week is second major of the year there is some uniqueness to the field and how the tournament is run.  The field this week is 156 players, however many of the players who are in the field are qualifiers and not necessarily “tour pros”.  Since the US Open allows open qualifying to their event, and since anyone can technically compete in these qualifiers, numerous unknown names always make it into this field.  While all the top players in the world are here there are some big names not here (like Padraig Harrington and Harris English).  More importantly there are some very inexperienced players in the field who you should probably be avoiding for fantasy purposes so make sure to do your research before plugging an unfamiliar name into your lineup.   Finally, the last important thing to remember this week is that only the top 60 and ties will make the weekend.  Unlike a regular tour event where the top 70 and ties get to play, the US Open makes it tougher for players to get four rounds of play in, and also tougher on fantasy players!

The Course

Chambers Bay, University Place, Washington

Par 70 7600-7800 yards

Chambers Bay is a unique course for several reasons.  The first is that it’s one of the newest courses ever to host a championship event.  Opening back in 2007, Chambers Bay was built on the site of an old quarry.  This will be the first time the course will be played on the PGA Tour in any event, although the course did host the 2010 USGA Amateur event back in 2010.

Chambers Bay can best be described as a links style course.  It has huge wide open fairways, large sloping greens and nary a tree on the course (ok one but it’s not in play).  Large bundles of fescue grass outline several areas of the course and while there’s no traditional US Open rough, the fescue itself can swallow a golf ball hole and be quite penal.  There’s also bunkers, lots of them, lots of humungous bunkers!  This course features the deepest bunker in US Open history (conveniently placed on the 18th hole) which has its own staircase.  Finally, if all that were not enough the course also will feature two holes (1 and 18) which will alternate between par 4’s and par 5’s on different days.  There’s no doubt that Chambers Bay will be the most unique test of golf players have faced all year and also serve as one of the most interesting tests in US Open history.

Last Five WinnersUSATSI_7955609_168381090_lowres

Martin Kaymer—2014
Justin Rose—2013
Webb Simpson—2012
Rory McIlroy—2011
Graeme McDowell—2010

 

What will it take to succeed at Chamber Bay?

Mental toughness.  That’s honestly probably going to be the biggest factor of this entire week.  You saw how important it was last year on an equally unique course at Pinehurst #2 when Martin Kaymer simply played spectacular, error free golf to decimate the field and I think this week will be the same story.  Whoever can best roll with the punches and limit their mistakes while producing as many quality shots as possible will be the champion.  While mental toughness will be key there’s also no doubt that distance will play a part.  The first clue is the sheer length of this course.  At its peak Chambers Bay can play well over 7800 yards and that alone will make distance a factor.  And while accuracy is important at US Opens it’s not as important as some people think it is.  Over the past 10 years most winners have been ranked higher in driving distance than accuracy off the tee.  With many wide open fairways this week it seems like distance will once again triumph.  Finally, given the nature of the course, players with extensive links experience should also have an advantage.  Chambers Bay may be the site of the US Open but it’s an Open Championship style course and those with experience playing over in Europe may hold a key edge.

 

Who has had success at the US Open?

This column is going to highlight players with success in the US Open in general.  Since the course is brand new we have no course history to back our predictions this week.
  • One of the most obvious players to note this week is Phil Mickelson. Phil has finished second at this event a record 6 times in some very heartbreaking ways.  He is always well prepared for this event and is likely to be in the mix in some way once again.
  • Since 2011 Jason Day has played the US Open 4 times and only finished outside of the top 4 once. He’s got a great record at this event although it remains to be seen how he’ll handle the links style of this course.
  • Lee Westwood’s record at the US Open over the past 5 years has been nearly as good. Westwood has finishes of 15th-16th-4th and 10th to his credit over that span.
  • Graeme McDowell has a great US Open record. On top of winning the event in 2010 he finished 14th in 2011 and 3rd in 2012.  He seems to always be in the mix.
  Who has struggled at the US Open?
  • Sergio Garcia only has one top twenty in his last 5 US open appearances. He has a good links record though so the course this week may suit him better than most US Opens, but his record at this event is still iffy.
  • Bubba Watson has a very hit or miss record at this event. He hasn’t cracked the top thirty since 2008 but at the same time with length potentially being a factor this week I don’t want to count him out entirely.
  • One player who had negative things to say about the course was Ryan Palmer. On top of not being in the greatest mental frame of mind for this week Palmer also only has one top twenty finish at the US Open over the past 8 years.
 

What statistics are important?

While statistically analysis might prove tougher than normal this week due to the lack of playing history there are some key stats I am pinpointing.  The first is driving distance.  Both the wide open nature and length of this course suggest players who hit it long off the tee will have an advantage.  Past US Opens have also shown that long hitters generally carry some kind of an advantage at this event and I think that trend will continue to hold true.  Additionally, like any US Open I think hitting as many greens in regulation will be key.  Even though the greens at Chambers Bay are unusually large they are also going to be difficult to hold.  Slopes and undulations mean players must still hit quality shots to land their ball and hold the greens.  Like any US Open staying out of trouble will be key and I think the eventual winner will be someone already ranked highly in that area.  Finally, I think the winner will also need to be a good scrambler.  Saving par as many times as possible is always key at the US Open and last year’s champion Martin Kaymer proved how important it was when he showed deft touch with his putter on and off the greens.  I think this year’s winner will also be a deft scrambler and that is a stat I’ll also look to help me with my picks.

 

My Recommendation:

Look for players with decent history, not just at this event, but also at past Open championships.  The Open (British open) is generally played on links courses and so players who’ve shown well in the years third major might have more success this week.  Additionally, I would give a slight edge to power hitters when doing your research but also don’t be afraid to pick some short hitters if they have the requisite scrambling ability to make up for their lack of length.  This championship is more about saving par than making birdies so keying on players who can get up and down is a good strategy.

 

My Pick: Henrik Stenson

I love the fact that Stenson is ranked so highly in greens in regulation (2nd on tour) but has also been one of the most improved scramblers this year as well (inside the top 50).  Stenson offers a nice blend of power and accuracy and also carries a fantastic links record with multiple top 10 finishes at the Open.  I think Stenson breaks through this week and pockets his first major championship.