Fantasy Golf Cheat Sheet: 2018 US Open

WATCH: Previewing the U.S. Open course at Shinnecock Hills


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

The Field

The US Open will be comprised of 156 players, with several 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 Official World Golf Ranking, the US Open remains one of the most wide-open events in terms of who can qualify. For fantasy purposes, this also means that some well-known players (Chris Kirk, JB Holmes, Billy Horschel) who did not make it through qualifying will not be in attendance, and in their place will be some far lessor-known — but still talented — golfers. 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 obviously will be involved.

As for the field itself, all of the top players are here. Defending champion Brooks Koepka has returned from an early season injury and is in good form to defend his title, while other major champions such as Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose all enter this week in varying degrees of form.

One major difference to take note of this week is the cut. In a normal PGA 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 10 strokes of the lead after Friday’s round used to also get through, that rule was abolished a few years ago.

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The Course

Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y.
Par 70, 7,445 yards

Shinnecock Hills is a longer, open, links-style par-70 layout that stakes its claim as the oldest organized golf club in America (1891). It has had some extensive redesigns over the past 100 years, and it played at around 6,900 yards the last time it hosted a US Open in 2004. In 2012, the club underwent its most recent restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (who also renovated Pinehurst No. 2 prior to the 2014 US Open), which removed trees from the course and extended the length to 7,445 yards. Other changes included widening of fairways in some areas, although the USGA has stepped back some of those, so don’t expect a repeat of last year at Erin Hills, where players rarely were penalized off the tee.

Shinnecock also has tricky Poa Annau greens and fescue rough that will punish those who get too far off line. The open venue also will be very susceptible to wind, and some unseasonably cool Northeast weather also might make things tough this week. Even though this isn’t what you’d call a pure links-style venue, it does contain several elements that will make it play similar in style to several Open Championship venues, and a harsh weather-draw bias could be one of those elements.

From a layout perspective, Shinnecock looks demanding. There are just two par 4s that play under 400 yards (the 399 yard first hole and the 374 yard 13th hole). On the flip side, seven of the par 4s will play over 450 yards in length, and both par 5s are long as well -— with the 16th hole playing at a whopping 616 yards (this hole could play even longer if the wind direction shifts into the players.)

By all reports, Shinnecock appears to be in pristine condition for this year’s event, and while it likely will play tough, it should be fair. Assuming the weather doesn’t deteriorate too much, a winning score somewhere under par should be doable.

2018 weather outlook: The weather looks like it will be a somewhat unseasonably cool throughout the week, with highs in the low 70s and some lows in the low 60s. Thursday looks decent as of writing, although the wind is expected to creep past 10 mph in the evening. The Friday weather is slated to get cooler with some chances of rain. The Friday morning crowd might start in rather cool conditions. No heavy winds are expected yet, but this all can change as we’re still days away from the start.


Past Five Winners

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)
2013 — Justin Rose +1 (over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day +3)


Winning Trends

— Five of the past 12 US Open winners had a win on the season before their victory.

— Seven of the past eight US Open winners had recorded at least four top-10s on the season before their title.

— All of the past eight US Open winners ranked inside the top 20 in Greens in Regulation percentage for the week of their championship (the past two winners were first in GIR for the week of their win).


Statistics

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Bogey Avoidance
Par 4 Scoring

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee is an area I would target this week. Driving Distance might be a factor when all is said and done, but with fast fairways and a links-style setup, roll will help all players get distance off the tee. Hitting it long and straight will be the key, and that’s where Strokes Gained: Off the Tee comes in as it measures more than pure distance. Additionally, recent form in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green is worth viewing. The past six winners all had great run-ups to this event, and four of them were ranked 18th or higher in this stat for the year of their win.

There have been a few exceptions (most notably Koepka from last year), but most of the recent winners of this event have ranked highly in Bogey Avoidance. Four of the past six winners have ranked inside the top 20 in this stat in the year of their victory, and given the fact that Shinnecock looks set to play much tougher than last year’s venue, it might well be something to weigh this week. Finally, looking at strong par-4 scorers here makes sense, too. The Par 70 venue has just two par 5s that likely will play long, so playing the par 4s better than the field is a huge leg up this week.


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 will detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.

PlayerOddsDK PriceComparables
Tiger Woods16-1$9,200Justin Rose $9,900 and 16-1
Jon Rahm $9,500 and 20-1
Rickie Fowler $10,200 and 18-1
Paul Casey40-1$8,000Bryson DeChambeau $8,300 and 45-1
Branden Grace $8,400 and 40-1
Tommy Fleetwood $8,100 and 50-1


History

The US Open is played at rotating courses, so looking back at course history doesn’t make sense this week. That being said, the USGA setup often is quite similar each year, so looking back at who’s had success at this event over their career is at least worth pondering this week.

Brooks Koepka will play in just his sixth US Open, but he already has amassed a terrific record at the event. He was T4 in his debut at Pinehurst in 2014 and finished T18-T13-1 in the three years since. Koepka enters this event in red-hot form and easily could threaten to win his second major this week.

Dustin Johnson has played in 10 US Opens and amassed a record of four top-10a, a win and 8/10 cuts made. The 2016 champion will look to bounce back from a shocking missed cut last year, nail down his second major championship and hold onto his No. 1 status at Shinnecock.

Branden Grace will participate in his sixth US Open this week, and he has been a force at this event over the past couple of seasons. Grace has made the cut in each of the past three US Opens, and was T4 at Chambers Bay and T5 at Oakmont. He enters this year in great form with two top-fives since the Masters.

Jason Day has played in the US Open seven times now and finished outside of the top 10 just twice. He has runner-up finishes from both 2011 at Congressional and 2013 at Merion and a T4 finish at Pinehurst in 2014. Day missed the cut at Erin Hills last year, but he enters in better form and with less off-the-course distractions.


Top Recent Form

1. Dustin Johnson comes in off a dominant win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and he has been no worse than T17 in his past five starts.
2. Justin Rose has four finishes of T6 or better over his past eight starts, including a dominant win at the Colonial a few weeks ago.
3. Bryson DeChambeau has four finishes of T4 or better over his past seven starts, including a breakthrough win at The Memorial.
4. Francesco Molinari is in absolute scorching form after a huge win at the BMW PGA event in Europe and second place at the Italian Open.
5. Jimmy Walker hasn’t finished worse than T20 over his past five events, and he has finished T6 or better in three of those starts.

Top Strokes Gained: Tee To Green (Season)

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Justin Thomas
3. Henrik Stenson

Top Strokes Gained: Putting (Season)

1. Jason Day
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Webb Simpson (5th overall)


DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games — Because of the deep field, I view most of the $10K-and-above players as better GPP options (although Dustin Johnson might be a good starting point given his recent form). Starting your lineups with multiple players from the $9K range makes sense to me, and Justin Rose ($9,900) and Brooks Koepka ($9,000), both former US Open champs, seem like great anchors. After them, players such as Henrik Stenson, Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley all are possible targets for me, too.

Tournaments — As previously mentioned, I like targeting the high-priced studs for GPPs. Jason Day ($10,500) and Rickie Fowler ($10,200) both have great US Open records and shouldn’t be too heavily owned, given the number of elite players whom people have to chose from this week. Both were top-five back in 2014 on another restored classic venue in Pinehurst. A few other targets I like for this format include Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry, Jimmy Walker, Si Woo Kim, Gary Woodland, Russell Knox and Lucas Herbert.


MY PICK: Jason Day ($10,500)

There are good arguments for and against Day, but in my humble opinion, the arguments for him having a big week outweigh the opposite ones. Day has thrived in 2018 despite not always having elite ball-striking numbers, and wins at two very classic, very tough venues (Torrey Pines and Wells Fargo) indicate that his game and mindset is ready for the test Shinnecock Hills will represent. He also has been an amazing US Open player over his career, with top-10 finishes in five of his seven US Open starts -— a run that includes a T2 at Merion in 2013 and a T4 at Pinehurst in 2014.

Day enters the week 14th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and top three in both putting and around-the-green stats. He also has had his best putting splits on Poa Annau grass over his career, with a +0.63 strokes gained variance on this surface with the putter versus all others (via fantasygolfmetrics.com). With a win and a T5 at The Players Championship since the year’s first major, he’s my pick to take home the trophy this week.


My Sleeper: Kyle Stanley ($7,200)

For a player who has been so consistent tee-to-green the past couple of years, it seems strange this will be the first year since 2013 that Stanley will compete in the US Open. After a slow start to 2018, the American has turned up his game of late and finished T13 or better in three of his five starts -— a run that includes a playoff loss at The Memorial.

Stanley’s stats suggest he could be an ideal US Open target, as he’s ranked 30th in SG: Off the Tee, sixth in Driving Accuracy and fourth in Greens in Regulation (the past two winners of the US Open led the field in this stat). Stanley was third in Strokes Gained: Approaches at The Memorial and should be able to hold these tougher greens at Shinnecock better than most with his stellar iron play.

Stanley never has finished better than T39 at a major championship, but he also hasn’t given himself many chances of late, and he enters this year’s event in perhaps the best form he ever has had prior to a major. I’d look for a breakthrough from him at Shinnecock and for him to threaten a top-10 position.


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.