Welcome to the 2018 US Open DraftKings Fantasy Picks and Pro-Tip.
The PGA TOUR heads to Long Island, New York where Shinnecock Hills will host the US Open. The field features 156 players, roughly half which have qualified through sectionals or amateur tournaments. While the cut (T60 and ties) appears particularly daunting at first glance the field size is a little bit misleading as many of those players are drawing dead to play the weekend. Shinnecock Hills will play as a Par 70 at nearly 7,500 yards long, and we will likely see another year where the US Open is among the hardest tournaments in golf. Par truly is a good score this week, and DraftKings scoring should be limited with only two Par 5s in the mix, one mostly playing as a three shot hole. The fairways this week will be 40-yards wide on average, but missing them will be truly penal with the rough 5+ inches high and knee-high fescue beyond that. From a fantasy scoring perspective, the challenging scoring environment and cut rules will do a couple things — generate lower “6 of 6” made cut probabilities and further emphasize the importance of “place points” on lineups. While in large field GPPs you will always need to get 6 of 6 to the weekend to contend, in cash games and smaller field GPP formats we could see 4/6 lineups cash, depending on the leaderboard. Our current optimal lineups still favor a bit of a more balanced approach to roster construction but paying up for Dustin Johnson in cash games is viable and the recommended route if you don’t start with Justin Rose.
News and Notes
The closest weather tower on windfinder is at the golf course which is a blessing because the weather could play a critical factor. The current forecast (12am Tuesday) shows warm weather and sustained winds around 15 MPH with gusts up to 20+ MPH. Given the course layout and limited trees, it is very plausible that weather will play a factor, including a favorable draw. Right now there is a slight preference to playing Friday PM but the weather can shift quickly, particularly days out, and already has. Be sure to check the wind Wednesday evening.
Phil Mickelson’s press conference noted that “all areas of a golfer’s game will be tested” in this week’s event and that the course should reward skill. Only twenty players in the entire field have gained strokes in each area of skill (SG Off the Tee, SG Approach, SG Around the Green, and SG Putting), while thirty total golfers have gained stokes in the three Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green categories. One way to break ties this week is to lean on golfers with more balanced, all-around games, versus those who are reliant on one or two traits to succeed. A list of these golfers highlights a lot of expected names, but a few surprising ones as well like Xander Schauffele, Aaron Wise or Ian Poulter who may not be on your radar.
I would also recommend zeroing out course history in the fantasy projections this week, as the US Open plays at a different venue each year. The projections are customizable, and I will also be adjusting the scoring environment relative to par to reflect a challenging US Open setup. My numbers will be run with an average score of +4 relative to par.