US Open: June 15th through June 18th
Well, finally had a Sunday. Unfortunately it was to stave off disaster more than to smash but hey, we’ll take it. Looking back I’m a bit disappointed considering my core (this week that meant 33-45% ownership of all these guys) was:
Berger/Charl/Chappell/Horschel/Hillbilly, 1st/2nd/4th/10th and 14th in DK scoring
And then Palmer who stunk and Brooks who was pedestrian
But where it fell off was with the garbage filler, I played too much of Henley and Brian Gay and Smylie and Kang, all of whom killed my chances at the big time. I did have a lineup that got up to 3rd in the 14k entry Up and Down late on Sunday, but that was fool’s gold as it came during a brief stretch that Charl, Berger, Horschel, and Cink were all tied for first.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello rated very highly for me, but I only ended up with 18% due to my own recency bias. The two times I went way heavy on him this year were for MCs at Heritage and last week at Memorial. Happens to everyone.
Anyway, survive and advance, let’s talk U.S. Open!
Here we are for one of golf’s biggest events, and as usual we are playing on a course we don’t know a ton about. This makes it a little frustrating for someone who is as much a slave to data as I am, but it can also be a fun puzzle to sort out. Erin Hills immediately stands out for its 7,800 yard length, but the real story appears to be the rough, the greens, and the wind. When one sees a course of this length with reportedly wide fairways and a links style layout, snap judgement says take distance off the tee above all else and who cares if they spray it.
(I’d shout out czaz for that find but it would probably get to his head)
Conclusion: You DO NOT want to be in that crap, ever. And it’s five yards off the fairway. So, the JB/Jimmy Walker/Justin Thomas/Bubba types I’d normally want a piece of at a monster course like this are going to get completely crossed off my list. They will find that fescue, and some really ugly numbers are going to happen. Also, as with all majors, the course should play tough. It is unlikely that players will be able to make up a triple or two with high volume fantasy scoring. Traditionally the U.S. Open is the hardest major of all. That may not be the case this year with a full complement of par 5s (this tournament hasn’t played as a par 72 since 1992), but there will still be brutal holes and birdies should be in short supply. Add to that unpredictable wind patterns and virtually no trees to shelter from that wind and I’m likely looking purely for the straight, steady, ballstriking types.
Length/Fairways: Loooong course, so of course hitting a mile will be a major advantage. Unfortunately one will need to be straight with that length, and really the only guys who can hit it 310 and stay in the fairway consistently are Rory, DJ, Rahm, and Adam Scott. With the reputation of this place, it does seem like many of the distance guys are priced up above what they normally would be relative to those around them. You can find a lot of nice value with players that don’t quite have titanic length but can still gain strokes off the tee by hitting it true. Since above all else I am trying to avoid that fescue, I will likely embrace that savings and ride some steadier guys.
Greens: Here comes another conundrum. These greens are supposedly Augusta level fast, and even the area around them is shaved down quite a bit. Some initial arguments I heard were that this could allow players to putt from off the greens, really giving a big advantage to some of the Horschel/Kaymer types that are horrendous chippers. However, this has been contradicted by reports that this fringe area is also steeply downhill away from the greens, which really takes the putter out of the equation when in the around the green area. Coming as I do from a teaching background (we as a species are no stranger to using crappy drawings to illustrate a point), I turned to trusty MS Paint for this helpful diagram of a typical Erin Hills green elevation:
Holding these greens is going to be really important. Luckily, prowess with longer iron shots tends to be in the domain of accurate players off the tee. And I do mean looong, there will be a number of second shots that are over 200 yards. All the par 5s are 600+, which means they’ll be tough to reach in two even for the longest hitters.
Okay, last point on the greens. Because there isn’t much rough around the greens, players who do miss will be able to hit the ball how they want. And with the danger of rolling right off the other side with a punchy chip shot so high, players will be looking to loft it towards the hole and land soft. This is almost less like a typical around the green shot and more like a very short approach. Add to that the fact that the par 5s are likely to be three shots to the green for most players, and I’m going to be looking at the typically least useful range of shots in golf: approaches from 50-100 yards. This is potentially bad news for some of the guys that have fit thus far. Also FWIW, the last time I found this range of shot to be useful was in Mexico, which basically ended up the shortest course of the year due to the elevation.
Oh crap, one more thing about the greens. If they are as smooth as everyone says, true putting skill may come out a little bit more. Good putts get pushed an inch off line by a wonky blade of grass all the time, but word on the street is that isn’t happening here. You know what this means. If Spieth or Bryan or Hadwin or even Horschel is feeling it, watch out.
Weather: Always tough this far out, but it sounds like the wind here will be in and out and swirling and changing directions all week. I definitely don’t see a tee time advantage as of now but will of course be updating on our Wednesday night show. There does appear to be a fair amount of rain coming up, both before the tournament and during. This SHOULD soften the course, which would actually be a mark in the favor of the less accurate monster hitters. The ball would roll and bounce less, leading to less chance of catching a bad break after impact. As of right now that is not going to get me to change my approach much.
On to the golfers:
Pricey (9.0K+ DK):
Listen, everyone 9k and up is amazing at golf, and they are all in play to some extent. I am not likely to try and make a stand here if I can avoid it. I’m going after this tier like the old fantasy football adage of “You can’t win your league in the first round, but you can lose it.”
The one guy I am probably completely fading is Jason Day, whose tee spraying and awful year on the approach makes me really scared.
Remove him and I almost like them in order according to price tag. I’ll likely be heaviest compared to the field on Stenson, as I think people still won’t want to play him after his up and down start to the year. Lowest for me will probably be Rickie, who I like plenty but really isn’t as good as these other guys up here, and is definitely a big DFS darling at the moment. I like Sergio/Rahm/Rose just as much and I imagine they will all come with at least 4-5 (if not 8-10) points less ownership.
Mid-range (7.5-8.9 DK):
When they are underpriced like this these guys will be in my article every week, but Adam Scott-8.8/16.2 and Paul Casey-8.4/14.9 are better ballstrikers than anyone but Rory or on point ‘Deki and Stenson. Their putting troubles are well documented so the nuclear upside probably isn’t there on a course that should see some putts roll in, but these guys are great cash plays if you want to minimize risk.
I won’t argue with Matt Kuchar-7.6/14.6 or Kevin Kisner-7.5/14.5 as cash plays either. Ideally you’d prefer a little more length, but as I’ve said, one really gets wiped out for lack of length at a scoring course. These dudes may have more 200 yard approaches than the 180s a longer guy will, but their ability to stay out of that thick stuff and grind out pars will let them keep pace. The fact that the longer guys aren’t going to be piling up eagles will help.
Euro upside plays Thomas Pieters-7.7/15.4 and Tyrell Hatton-7.5/13.4 are my favorite GPP plays in this range, although I’ll admit to being nervous about Pieters’ wildness and Hatton’s hotheadedness. Worth some shots.
Louis Oosthuizen-7.4/14.8 is in play to win this whole thing, as he has the whole bag one will need. But man, it sounds like he’s getting talked up a lot early. I’m really interested but if he is 20% that is going to be tough to swallow.
Cheapies (below 7.4 DK):
As usual at a premium event, this range is loaded. I think you can differentiate here enough to be able to take some shots on most of the top studs, leaving yourself as many outs as possible.
Byeong-Hun An-6.8/13.3, Marc Leishman-6.7/13.4, Wesley Bryan-6.8/12.2
These guys all stand out as unbelievable values, but they will to other people too.
Emiliano Grillo-6.9/12.6 (binky play), Billy Horschel-6.7/13.4 (hasn’t slowed down since the win, really battled last week without his best stuff), Bill Haas 6.6/12.5 (think people are underrating how much of a plodder’s course this will play as), Shane Lowry-7.3/14.4 (murders these types of courses), Charl Schwartzel-7.3/14.4 (obv), Lucas Glover-6.8/12.5 (ballstriker par excellence, might be 2% owned), Jason Kokrak-6.6/11.8 (ballstriker, um, avec excellence but still good, will be 2% owned), and finally Maverick Mcnealy-6.5/10.9 (Listen I went on record as not playing the kids until I get a chance to check them out during the swing season but this is going to be an exception. He’s 21, so not a baby anymore, he hits 300 already, and he has spent the last two years trading amateur no. 1 with Jon Rahm. I can’t imagine anyone will be on him in a field like this and he could absolutely be the surprise top 10).
Site Specific Values:
FantasyDraft: Pricing seems a little looser this week, with a few hundred bucks shaved off the prices of the top guys. Mcnealy is only 10.9, play him along with a Glover/Bryan/Grillo/RCB 12k guy and you can squeeze in a ton of guys. Like, you can actually play two studs over there, usually it’s a chore to get one in.
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Fanduel is back, with a roster of eight golfers counting for all four rounds. A potential improvement for sure, and duplicate lineups won’t be anything to worry about. However, if we say traditionally 10-15% of lineups get 6/6 through that implies around a 70% hit rate for DFS players. Add two more guys to the roster and you can halve that 10-15% for the number of 8/8 teams. We will be seeing weekend golf there sooner rather than later.
Go and get it everybody.
Find me on Twitter @andrewmbarron or in the FanVice Premium Slack @hotmajik if you wanna talk strat/make jokes/argue